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Anya Morgan, left, of Upper Jay, tells Allie Burke about volunteer work she did after Tropical Storm Irene. Photo: coutesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Irene damage photo: Susan Waters.
Anya Morgan, left, of Upper Jay, tells Allie Burke about volunteer work she did after Tropical Storm Irene. Photo: coutesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Irene damage photo: Susan Waters.

Students listen for untold Irene stories

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The history of the floods that flashed through the Adirondacks during Tropical Storm Irene will be told in pictures, statistics, and press archives. Now a group of students from Vermont's Burlington College will add an audio-documentary of personal stories told by the people who's lives were affected.

Allie Burke and Colin Donaghey, students in John Warren's "Oral History and Audio Documentary" class, set up their recording equipment at the Keene Community Center. Chris Morris stopped by and has this report.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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Burlington College’s Irene storytelling project aims to document the more personal stories that came out of Tropical Storm Irene.

The stories were shared in an intimate, one-on-one setting at the Community Center in Keene. Here, Allie Burke speaks with Anya Morgan, a young girl from Upper Jay.

Anya’s home was spared in the storm, so she and her family laced up their boots and pitched in to help others.

“So were you guys stuck or did you evacuate before?”

“We didn’t have to evacuate, but we went to see what happened in the morning.”

“But your house is all right?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you or your family help with the volunteer efforts?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you do any of the work?”

“Yeah.”

“I went to Julie’s Place, the antique shop. And I helped at the (Brookside) Motel and the (Wells Memorial) Library.”

Anya’s mother, Heather, said she was proud of the way her daughter responded to the disaster. That’s why she encouraged Anya to participate in the storytelling project.

“I wanted Anya to have this experience,” she said, “because she was so amazing with volunteering her time in those first two weeks. She wasn’t quite in school yet, so she really just got right into the mud and started shoveling and helping her neighbors. And I was just so impressed with how she threw herself into it, so I thought she should be documented for posterity and I wanted to have her experience this.”

 

One of the accounts about Irene came from a Montreal woman who paddled her kayak to a stranded chicken coop. The woman told Burke the chickens survived the flood and were fine.

Burke also interviewed a woman whose 35-year-old barn was swept away by the flood and completely destroyed.

“And one of her cats got swept along with the barn, but the cat made it,” Burke said. “It somehow climbed up a tree and was safe until the next day, when they found it. Her home was destroyed, so she isn’t going to put the time and the money into restoring it. She’s going to build a new home somewhere else.”

Burke’s classmate, Colin Donaghey, said documenting stories from Irene was an interesting process.

He said he wished the storm hadn’t happened and that the devastation hadn’t occurred, but since it did, he said it’s important to look at the role of these personal accounts.

“From a historic perspective, I like trying to document things that can become part of the historic record, because in the future, you never know what will be looked at as important when you look back,” Donaghey said. “I find that really interesting.”

Their instructor, John Warren, said the turnout was great, and that the stories were incredible.

“A lot of folks are glad we’re here to hear their stories,” he said. “They have stories to tell, and people don’t always have the opportunity to tell the stories that mean the most to them. We’re glad to be here to provide that opportunity.”

Warren said the long-term plan is to have the audio files archived at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. He said he hopes researchers in the future will be able to tap into the stories for their work.

Warren said his students may also use the interviews to create documentary projects at Burlington College.

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