Although Schoharie County's physical recovery from Irene has been remarkable, the county's recovery in attitude has been even more so.
It was such an attitude--"resilience and dogged determination," Sarah Goodrich labeled it--that Schoharie Area Long Term recovery celebrated Sunday in Middleburgh.
About 100 gathered at the Timothy Murphy Park, scarcely a football field from the creek that flooded the Schoharie Valley, to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Irene and the long recovery since then.
Ms. Goodrich, SALT's executive director, called the process tragedy into triumph, as dedicated volunteers tackled devastation up and down the Valley.
"We saw faces of fear turn into faces of determination," she said, referencing the hundreds of volunteers who not only helped but banded together in cooperation.
"We are all part of each other's stories," Ms. Goodrich added.
Josh DeBartolo, former director of Schoharie Recovery, was the keynote speaker. He read a story about the flood and recovery to his infant son, Blake, while his wife Alison held the book.
As Mr. DeBartolo told it, the story had five characters--Courage, Empathy, Dedication, Quiet Leadership and Hope--each equally important to recovery.
"When we all come together, anything is possible," Mr. DeBartolo said. "We can change the world like we did in Schoharie County.
"We laid a foundation of values."
Also speaking was state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who helped recovery in its early stages. "I was better at demolition than rebuilding," he said, to laughter.
Mr. DiNapoli encouraged others from Albany to get involved because, he said, "We were so moved by what we saw eacn and every one of you doing in your own community.
"You typify what we like to brag about: New York's spirit."
Mr. DiNapoli also touched on a theme mentioned by others, that recovery in some cases improved what had been before.
"You kept what was great and built upon it," he said.
Jennifer Mosher's poem, "Schoharie," conveyed a similar idea.
"Our town will never be the same, she says
"But we can make it better than before," Ms. Mosher read to the audience.
Such an effort required resolve, added Assemblyman Pete Lopez, whose home was destroyed by Irene's flooding. He recalled how difficult recovery was in the beginning but how successful it's been--and will continue to be.
"We have been tested and found worthy," Assemblyman Lopez said. "The continuing message is hope. . .and perseverance."
As recovery continues, SALT is also refocusing its mission into economic development. Members are working on a Schoharie Creek Trail, a website that promotes the area, bringing in jobs and "making vacant places vibrant places," said emcee Jerrine Corallo, who's SALT's project director.
"We believe in the American dream," she said. "Dream big and work hard."
Ms. Goodrich agreed.
"It's amazing that so many accomplished so much," she said. "We know there's more work to do, but when good minds work together, we can do it."
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Sunday's celebration also presented awards to special recipients. See story and photos on page 13.