It has been a year since Hurricane Irene tore through Brattleboro– carving new riverbeds, displacing hundreds, and grinding the town to a halt while dumpsters were filled with oily mud and debris.
It has been a year since the locals rose up, in the midst of personal loss and despair, and helped pull Brattleboro back to its feet. Since I stood over a tarp on Flat Street and sorted through the remnants of Adivasi’s basement, which had been flooded to the ceiling with muck during the storm.
I stood on top of the parking garage while the water overtook my town. I watched cars, in the lot below, get nudged from their parking spaces by the power of the water. I watched as business-sized propane tanks, motorcycles, and in-tact porches rolled weightlessly past me. Even a swing set.
I watched the water rise and inch towards the co-op, where I worked. The co-op, which was still so fragile from our own tragedy, only a month prior. You may have noticed that I didn’t write about the co-op last month; I didn’t write how I was feeling upon the anniversary of that murder. Despite that, it didn’t come and go unnoticed. In fact, I have been thinking about it a lot. I didn’t write about it because, even though a year has passed, it still feels so fresh and stagnant with feelings of anger, sadness, and disgust. No matter what, I can’t make these feelings budge.
Truthfully, I am a bit ashamed.
I have been trying so hard to recalibrate the ways that my heart and brain work – actively trying to let go of hard feelings and to forgive people for their mistakes and bad choices. I want to be someone who can forgive and move on. But I just can’t bring myself to forgive Richard for what he did – to me and to my community. For the fear he brought to a space that felt like a second home to me. For the way people I love had to witness something so unbearably horrific.
The spitting animosity I feel for him is justified, I know, but for how long? How long do I allow this man to continue to hurt me? And, how do I let go of something that seems to have sunk into my bones?
On this anniversary, Brattleboro has healed. Businesses have reopened, homes have been repaired or rebuilt, and the rivers are tame. The co-op has been rebuilt too – its former body literally torn to pieces. On this anniversary, the winds are blowing strong in Pensacola, Florida – my other hometown, with the onset of Tropical Storm Isaac. The trees will surely fall, and the waters will rise. I hope that in the aftermath, in the ebb, my friends and family there will feel the same solidarity, love, and support that I felt last year. I hope they find that selflessness is universal.
I hope they find forgiveness.