Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Community trumps privacy in the wake of Hurricane Irene

This story in yesterday's New York Times plays on a persistent tension in rural communities--that between a desire and respect for privacy on the one hand and a sense of community and commitment to one's neighbors on the other.

In some ways, the story is a standard "pulling-together in the face of adversity" tale, one set in Williamsville, Vermont, in the wake of the dramatic flooding there over the week-end. Williamsville is not even a Census Designated Place, but journalist Abby Goodenough describes it as "a mountain village that has a post office, a volunteer fire department, a general store and not much else." She reports the population at about 800. What caught my eye in the story, though, was the privacy twist on the standard rural community trope.
People might not have known, or liked, their neighbors before the storm — privacy is important in places like this, where cellphone reception was nonexistent even before the storm and many landlines are now out — but that has all changed, at least for now.

* * *
Here, people with electricity and hot water are offering showers, Internet access and beds to those without. At the century-old grange hall, volunteers have made lists of what some residents need and what others can offer. A potluck supper was organized for Tuesday night, and a “lost and found” bench was set up along Dover Road ... so that possessions found in the floodwaters’ path might be reclaimed.
For move coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Irene's impact on New England, see here, here and here.

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