"In Fleischmanns, it took the kids to raise the village"

To commemorate the two-year anniversary of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, which devastated communities across the Catskills on August 28, 2011, we are collecting your flood stories. To see all the submitted flood stories, click here. To see last year's "Faces of the Flood" photo project, click here. To submit a flood story, email it to julia.reischel@watershedpost.com

Above: A young Fleischmanns resident after the flood of 2011. All photos submitted by Bud Sife.

By Bud Sife.

This poem about the flooding in Fleischmanns was written last year, on the one-year anniversary of the flood. Sife submitted it to us in time for the two-year anniversary. -- Ed.

When I left Woodstock
I was forty nine years old
I wanted to change my life…..
to be alone,
to study, and to regenerate,
and Fleischmanns was a good place for that.
a quiet place,
where people said
"Nothing ever happens,"

(That sounded good after Woodstock,
a beautiful artist colony,
in a charming hamlet
where I had hoped to spend my life,
until it became
a  noisy, crowded, busy,
expensive, commercial success).

When I moved to Fleischmanns
society was at a low ebb,
with few people, and
only one child in the village,
the few businesses were barely surviving.

The school had been sold.
poverty, loneliness,
and dilapidation were everywhere,
while ignorance rejected change.

empty buildings, quiet streets,
a few old folks,
lonely and alone.
You could buy a good house
for 3 or 4 thousand.

Then around the eighties,
a few Mexicans came,
and felt welcome here,
and they liked the valley
and the climate
and the real estate prices,

And they brought their families
and babies and children,
and life
and love
came back to Fleischmanns!
after a century of decline.

One night when "they" had predicted
two inches of rain,
we got twenty two inches.
"Hurricane Irene" had arrived.

  "Hurricane Irene",
the "five hundred year" flood
that destroyed hundreds of houses
and thousands of lives.

When the rain finally stopped,
there was water everywhere
with three feet of mud
blocking main street and the firehouse.
Trees and buildings were torn up everywhere
highways blocked and damaged
in every direction.
and devastation was widespread.

The streams remained flooded for weeks,
while men and large machines
kept working to clear them.
Houses washed away,
one with a woman, Leah Stern inside.

Cars drowned, bridges gone,
schools and stores closed,
supermarket and pharmacy gone,
roads closed everywhere,
electricity and phones dead,
food shortages,
streets impassible.
flotsam and debris,
mud and misery everywhere.

For several months
the basement of the old church
became an improvised restaurant and grocery
for people unused to sociability
and immersed in misery

while the main floor
became a used clothing
and toy store
and toilet.

Everybody ate together,
most unknown to each other.
in unusual groupings,
and lonely in that crowded basement,
our uncomfortable dining room.

Young and old,
rich and poor,
breakfast,lunch and dinner,
for months.

People were saying
"we can't handle this," and
if we abandoned self government,
"they" would fix everything.

Deprivation and apprehension ruled.
with mud and sadness everywhere,
It seemed like it would never end.

At dinner in the church one evening
the mood was somber, as usual
when a heavy rain started.

Although the room was
uncomfortably hot and crowded,
people were reluctant
to leave in the downpour,
grumbling about the weather,
while waiting for the rain to stop.

When, softly at first,
unheard in the noise
and mud and misery,
there arose an unusual sound in the room!
Like music from another world,

barely discernible at first,
a tinkling sound
gradually penetrated
the noise in the room.

In a corner of the room
where the floor and walls formed a megaphone,
a few toddlers
were having a wonderful time,
laughing and playing
and screaming in delight,
oblivious to the misery around them.

Like the sound of a canary in a mine,
the tinkling of children's laughter,
became a spark of life in the gloom.
an inkling of love in the place
affecting everyone in the room.

A few people smiled at first,
and, like a miracle in a movie
the mood in the room started to change.
people began talking,
cautiously at first,
still fearful.

and before the rain let up,
that dining room
was full of smiling people!
chattering and smiling,
actually looking at each other!
forgetting for the moment
what waited for them outside.

The next morning
was chilly and drizzling.
when the village started
to emerge from its lethargy.

And by evening, it had somehow become
a beehive of activity
with people shoveling mud and hauling trash
and sawing logs and digging pathways
and pushing cars,
and actually helping each other!

Smiling people!
regeneration in the mud!
A new Fleischmanns?
Strange things can happen in a small village!

FEMA came with financial help.
Volunteers from everywhere
arrived and assisted,
while the county's people
dragged enormous stones
and trees and even houses
from the roads and streams
for weeks.

A year later things are looking better.
The wreckage has been removed,
most roads are clear again,
and most bridges are open.

The remnants of mud are dry now
and the Hog mountain shortcut is open again.
People have already started to forget
how bad it really was..…but
this place will never be the same.

Now we have many new families
with about a hundred kids in school and college.
Main street has become a friendly place
where children play
and everyone knows their neighbors,
and smiling people greet each other.

They say;
"It takes a village to raise a kid",
  but in Fleischmanns
"it took the kids to raise a village"