Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Practical Anarchy During Recovery from Hurrican Irene

Days after the Hurricane Irene damaged large parts of  Central Vermont this little soap company sent out an e-mail to its vendors and customers. The e-mail then was forwarded to many others. The message starts with the damage caused to the region where the soap factory was and how regular citizens helped each other.
 "Hurricane Irene came through and dumped nine feet of water on us in a single day. Water levels rose slowly for several hours, and then jumped dramatically higher. Within 15 minutes overworked culverts failed, and then were tossed aside like candy wrappers. A hundred bridges collapsed in Central VT including 15 covered bridges that had stood for nearly 150 years. Our little town of Rochester (pop 1200 on weekends) was completely cut off from the outside world. Electricity failed, but our town's well made water system worked continuously through the crisis. The sewer plant shut down and sewer mains were washed aside like the overwhelmed culverts that, once gone, left ten foot deep gashes across our main roads, secondary roads, and driveways.One of our friends lost their home when it crashed down into the raging brook. I had dropped off one of their daughters (who works for my wife at her Bakery) just an hour before.
Our town was completely alone. Everyone squared away their families as best they could and got to work. People, who cooked, cooked. People who ran heavy equipment jumped in. Organizers organized, volunteers volunteered, and everyone shared what they had. We kept the Bakery open, making French bread and bagels and soothing frayed nerves. People who had money paid. People with credit wrote it down. Everyone who worked or was devastated could eat for free."

What Larry experienced is not surprising, it happens in most disasters large and small in every culture and country. People come together and work together during times of crisis. What is interesting about this message is it shows how anarchy can be a powerful force in disaster rescue and recovery for US communities.
"I learned what anarchy is during those three days. Anarchy is not rioting in the streets. Anarchy is not pillaging and looting. Anarchy is when your buddy jumps out of the truck and starts directing traffic while something is going on, and then leaves when the operation is completed. Anarchy is feeding people because they are hungry and giving them showers because they are dirty. Then you continue doing what you were doing before you stopped doing that and did the thing that needed doing at that moment."

Larry goes on to write about the official response by various government agencies that failed to respond to the actual needs of the people. If you want to read the entire message which is very honest and well-written check out their web site at:

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