NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Two events are planned for local residents impacted by Tropical Storm Irene who want a chance to thank the responders who helped, or want to record their stories for posterity.
"Afternoon of remembrance"
As the one-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene approaches, Starting Over Strong Vermont, launched after the August 2011 storm washed away homes and businesses in various parts of the state, is continuing its efforts to help Vermonters heal.
In Bennington, SOS VT has organized an event on July 14 at the National Guard unit in Bennington "an afternoon of remembrance and gratitude to the people who helped the community during and following Tropical Storm Irene."
"In the recovery process there’s two things that happen, people who are recovering well want to celebrate that and people who are displaced from their homes want to be able to share, said SOS VT spokeswoman Amy Noyes.
Organizers say the meeting, from 1 to 3 p.m., will provide a chance for those impacted by the storm to meet and say thank you to the responders that helped evacuate people and clean up in the aftermath of the storm.
"A lot of first and second responders did a really wonderful job helping people evacuate," Noyes said.
Anyone affected by the storm can attend. Providing people with an opportunity to come together, say thank you, and support each other is important in the recovery and healing process.
"I believe that for the community to realize how far they’ve come since then, that’s going to be a big step in the recovery for them. A lot of people don’t realize how resilient they are, and to be able to thank people, it helps them so much," said Shannon Behan, a crisis counselor with SOS VT.
While many people are recovering well, Behan said many others are still struggling to cope. "It’s a mix. We still see people that are still struggling, but we’ve seen people that are 100 percent better," she said. "There’s still a lot of people with unmet needs."
Friends and family members may notice that people are still struggling if triggers like a hard rain storm upset someone, counselors said.
Meanwhile, SOS VT is sponsoring a "story circle" in Wilmington on July 22. Wilmington was struck particularly hard by flood water. Those who choose to speak will have their stories audio recorded.
"What happens when we go out is we see the needs of each community. Depending on what the crisis counselors are seeing in the field Š is how we tailor our events," Noyes said. "What’s been really helpful for folks is to be able to tell their story and have support in their community.
SOS VT is administered by Washington County Mental Health Services with other designated mental health agencies and community services in the regions of the state hit hardest by the storm.