WILLIAMSTOWN -- When the Hoosic River, swollen with water from Tropical Storm Irene, breached its banks and flooded the Spruces Mobile Home Park on Aug. 28, 2011, those who lived there lost more than their homes and possessions.
"I lost everything," Rosanne Marsh, who lived on Riverside Drive, said Saturday. "I'm OK with it now. I'm lucky. I have a nice little four-room apartment in North Adams and a wonderful landlord. What I lost was my community. My friends are scattered all over the place. They're not my neighbors anymore."
On Saturday, Marsh, was among those who gathered at the mobile home park to commemorate the one year anniversary of the storm. Only about a third of the park's 272 residents have been able to return to their homes.
"It's good to be here," she said. "It's good to see all of my neighbors and friends. And hopefully, it will bring me some closure."
The ceremony, which began with the dedication of a bench donated by a community member, also included an ice cream social sponsored by Higher Ground, an incorporated non-profit in Williamstown formed in the days following Tropical Storm Irene to respond to those in need of affordable housing and assistance.
Standing near the wooden bench in a field near the park's community center, the Rev. Peter Elvin, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church in Williamstown and Higher Ground board member, began the ceremony by asking that the day not be one remembering the devastation and loss, but one marking the resilience of the human spirit.
"Who would have expected that an ocean born cyclone would cut its way high into the mountains to die and cause so many good people to feel the death of that intimate part of them called home and neighborhood and normal?," he said. "No, I'm not naming her name today, because in Greek, her name means peace and she doesn't deserve it. Enough about a raging storm that took apart so many homes and hearts and hopes. Let's make this day about human resilience and recovery and all the people who's actions and attitudes have made for peace in those battered hearts."
Higher Ground Coordinator Robin Lenz, added, "You have taught us all that the best kind of preparedness in dark times is in the kindness and generosity of the human spirit, which you allowed us to experience and which is always with us."
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, who lives nearby on Galvin Road, which also suffered severe flooding during the storm, offered a few words of reflection and hope.
"It still brings tears to my eyes to think about what devastation came to this community, here, at The Spruces, as I'm sure it does to some of you sitting here today," she said. "We've all learned from that day. We've learned to have faith; determination; to work together and that like today, there will be many more sunny days. I hope there will be many more sunny days for The Spruces."