Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Unseen Damage

Damaged trees along the Quinebaug River on
Old Sturbridge Village Road.
This morning I had some errands to run, and drove to town.  I noticed the Old Sturbridge Village Road was now open, and decided to drive that road, and view the damage.  I had my camera with me.

Now, the reason I take my camera with me is to record the events of the day here in town.  Today it's the present, the happening now, and tomorrow, on Wednesday, it will be history.

We will always need to record the present in order to have an accurate history.  That's the way it has been since we drew on cave walls.  There have been times in our history that there have been folks that have actually tried to stop the recording of history, mostly for political purposes.  Expect it.  That will always happen, but in a free country. There should never be a reason to stop a person from recording history, or current events in the United States.  I am not talking about paparazzi, or people crossing the line and invading the space of people in disaster. That is a different story.  I am talking about surveying aftermath of a storm, and recording it for posterity just as the Hurricane of 1938 was recorded, the floods of the 1950's were recorded, and the Blizzard of '78 was recorded.  Nothing more.

So imagine my surprise when I parked my car on the side of old Route 15, and walked over to the front of the Days Inn with my camera.  I had just driven down the Publick House Road beside the motel, parked in several places, and had taken photographs, and was now approaching the corner of the Publick House Road, and Haynes Street with my camera.  As I approached, two National Guard soldiers approached me, and asked what I was doing.  I told them I was taking photographs of storm damage in my town.  The sergeant then told me that the "state does not want pictures taken".

I'm sorry, say what?  I asked her if she was saying I could not take photographs of the storm damage, and she said, "That is not what I am saying.  I am saying that the state does not want pictures taken.  They want people to respect those that have had a loss".

That goes without saying.  Respect for those that have suffered any kind of loss is paramount, but I am not taking photographs of people, I am taking photographs of broken trees, and the front of a broken building.

The sergeant stepped back, nodded, and thanked me for understanding.

I smiled back and started to walk down the Publick House Road.  A few steps down the road I was called by a Sturbridge Police officer leaning on a motorcycle in the parking lot of the Days Inn.  I walked over to the officer, some 50 feet away from the road, in the driveway of the motel.  He asked me where I was going.  I told him.  He asked me what I was doing.  I told him that, too.  He then told me, "OK, but stay out of everyones way, and stay on the road, not on private property".  Except for the two soldiers, the officer, and a couple of workers on the roof of the motel, there was nobody else around.  Nobody.  I would not be in any ones way, and would remain on the road, I assured the officer.

They all may have been awkward in saying it, but I knew where they were coming from.  Respect those that have lost the world around them.  Don't put camera lenses in their faces, or bother them with asinine questions like, "What are you most thankful for after the tornado now that your car is on its roof,  your house flattened and your dog missing?"

As someone commented here on a previous posting, 

"Nods, smiles, help and direction where needed, careful listening to stories that need to be spoken, and kind words...the healing begins."

Respect those that have, and are suffering, help out where you can, and however you can, and be thoughtful as you wander about town touring the damaged areas.  Keep in mind there is damage that you do not see:  the scores of broken hearts amidst those shattered trees.


  1. One storm. That’s all it took. One storm, to change us forever. Most of us were lucky, some devastated. All were all changed.

    We’ve see people who were physically hurt, those who lost their homes, the parents who comforted their children, the little child who looked at the world broken all around him and announced that "it bumped and it banged” and it smashed everything, but, with a little sigh and a slight smile, repeated what he had been told. “It was just the wind.”

    “Just the wind,” and look what it did. Life is fragile, isn’t it? We have so much and take so much for granted. The more we get, the more we think we need, the more we compete to see who has the most, and on it goes. Then, one day, Mother Nature makes a call and suddenly we realize that we are all in this together. For a moment, the competition stops…

    We were all powerless together. Equal. All equally humbled in that few minutes of blackness and wind. And then it passed, and the following day, in the bright sunshine we looked at each other a little differently than we had early the day before. And we spoke to each other differently than we had the day before. We noticed each other’s expressions and looked at each other’s eyes. In some cases, for the first time, we got to know a person we thought we had known for years.

    Long into the future we will see the changed landscape around us, and perhaps, just perhaps, it will help us to remember where we found the true beauty in our town, and we will cherish it.

  2. Wally: As you commented you can understand the need for the caution by the
    public safety officials. I am also glad you waited until sometime AFTER the
    event to be a recorder. I can tell you that this past weekend was a
    "nightmare" for those of us trying to help our residents restore their lives
    a bit because of all those who, as some were well intended but actually were
    a significant hindrance to effect clear up/restoration efforts buy not only
    the Town but the utilities as well. RT 15 for example was one continuous
    parking lot both sides, not only slowing down relief efforts but placing
    their safety and the of others in jeopardy. The same can be told of all of
    our streets in town. I estimate on Sunday alone our debris efforts were
    delayed by some 5- 8 truckloads we could have hauled if the traffic was not
    as bad. (a truck makes approx 7-8 loads a day under good conditions)

    I'm truly glad we do not have disasters like this very often, however the
    "stay out and let recovery occur" is a message that was lost on a lot of

    Tom Chamberland

  3. Mr. Chamberland,
    Thank you for your continued hard work. While you are here, though, could you just take 2 minutes to jot a sentence down, if you know where our stone monument for the Veterans of WWII, and the Vietnam and Korean conflicts ended up? Can the stones be reused to rebuild it?
    We have people here who are hurting from this loss, too. Yesterday we picked up the Town Common Newspaper and saw the huge picture of the "Sturbridge Colonial Militia" on the front page. The headline was "Sturbridge Honors its Real Heroes." One would think that a headline like that would have been over a picture of the parade stopping by our stone monument at the town hall which contained so many names familiar and dear to us.
    In speaking with local heroes we know and love, living heroes from the wars from the 1940's to the present, I can tell you they are hurt. Please, just a sentence or two, to let them and their friends and families know why the monument disappeared, and what can be done to bring it back. Thank you.


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