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Small Town in Vermont Shows Big Heart as Hurricane Irene Hits Hard


Amid the catastrophic hurricane this past weekend, the town of Pittsfield reminds us all of the power of the collective human spirit.

Pittsfield, Vermont, is the type of small town where everyone knows everyone. When you live in New York City, it's easy to discount what a small town of 400 is capable of. But amid the Hurricane Irene catastrophe this weekend in Pittsfield, I was reminded of the power of the collective human spirit.

When I headed up to Vermont for my cousin Marc Leibowitz's wedding this weekend, I thought that I was taking my family out of harm's way in Jersey City, NJ. Little did we know what was coming.

The story has been picked up all over the national media today, with various different spins and sensational headlines, but the story worth telling is of the heroism I encountered in this remote corner of America. These people were presented with the most difficult of circumstances, and they didn't panic or get angry, but instead banded together to ensure the safety and well-being of their neighbors.

The heavy rains from the storm triggered massive flooding all over Vermont, and Pittsfield was one of the hardest hit areas. The bed & breakfast at Riverside Farm where we were staying was perched safely on a hill, but roads on both sides of it were destroyed during the storm and we watched in horror as entire homes were swept away by the rushing water. Luckily, there were no deaths, but the citizens in this small town have seen their lives turned upside down.

The entire ordeal, needless to say, was very frightening for everyone. At one point it looked like more rain was on the way that could have washed our bed & breakfast away as well, but thankfully that did not come to pass.

On the first night after the storm, the US marshals came into our bed & breakfast and rounded up any males from the wedding party who felt able to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts. Town members from all walks-lawyers, doctors, the butcher the and even the shepherd quickly put everything aside to ensure the safety of those most affected.

I wish our government could channel that kind of spirit. It was remarkable to see what human beings can accomplish when they discard their differences, recognize congruent interests, and come together with a common purpose.

While there are many people who deserve recognition, I want to give special credit and thanks to the people in Vermont at Amee Farm and Riverside Farm , Joe and Courtney Desena, who made their bed & breakfast property a command center for the rescue and relief efforts in the town. They were selfless and relentless in their fight to save and help the people of the town, and without them it would have been nearly impossible.

My wife, 3-year-old son, father and mother, who was running low on breast cancer medication, were with me at the wedding so I decided to contract a helicopter to take us back to New Jersey after two days of assisting in the relief efforts. The helicopter was also able to deliver a package of medical supplies to others stranded in the town, and other wedding guests were able to be evacuated as well.

Hurricane Irene is beginning to fade from the headlines, but I can't stress enough that these people still need our thoughts, prayers, attention and aid. Their town is still flooded, they are without power, and they face a monumental task of rebuilding their town.

However, with the indefatigable spirit of community I witnessed this weekend, they will have no problem restoring Pittsfield to the warm, beautiful place it was before the storm. It is certainly an experience I will never forget.
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