Sarah’s Snippets 2/23/2016
I admit it – history has never been a big passion of mine like it is for my husband. Last week, however, I was reminded of the importance of history in understanding the present and in changing our path for the future. One of the older houses in the village of Schoharie is being elevated. SALT interviewed the owner and asked permission to use his information for an article in our weekly e-newsletter. Jay Balliett willingly shared the interesting history of his house.
Following the Civil War, soldiers were given money as they left the army in gratitude for their service to the country. This was the first GI bill. This “mustering out” money helped soldiers begin life again when returning home. In anticipation of numerous returnees to the Schoharie valley, a number of “spec houses” were built, including Jay’s. The mustering out money was often used to purchase these houses. Interestingly, Jay’s house was supposedly built by a Civil War solider, General Cobb, and Jay likes to jokingly say that his house was the first cob job!
While sharing why he chose to rebuild following the flood and now to elevate, Jay talked passionately about the history of the Schoharie Valley, this house’s part in that history, and the importance of preserving both for future members of the community. Elevating the house will accomplish that goal.
Simultaneously last week, a student intern from SUNY Cobleskill joined SALT to help with one of our grant projects. In explaining the role of SALT, past and present, we shared numerous videos and photos of the area following the floods four plus years ago. Although he is a senior at Coby and had heard some information about the flooding he was amazed to see the actual effects of Irene and Lee. Only after understanding the history of the flooding and recovery did the intern understand the real impact of the event, the importance of renewal, and value of developing resilience.
While we definitely need to “move on” from the flooding of Irene and Lee, we must not forget. Remembering reminds us of the tremendous generosity of volunteers, the sensitive outpouring of help from neighbor to neighbor, the value of living in a community of caring people. It also presents us with choices. We can choose to return to life as normal pre-flood–or, we can look for a different path, a path that will lead to an even brighter future.
It seems obvious to me that many are choosing another path. Positive energy for renewing the communities abounds. There are many efforts moving forward with innovative ideas and determination to learn from our past and to use the devastation of Irene and Lee as motivators to improve the future. These efforts can be seen in the areas of preparedness, community development, economic advancements and infrastructure advancements. SALT’s Trail Study grant, Geo to Go grant , and ongoing preparedness work along with many partners, are some of the examples.
Maya Angelou said: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” This is the opportunity presented by our history. Just as Jay is preserving the history of his house and learning from the past by using the present opportunity to protect the future, so too SALT and others are using the opportunity presented by our past history to chart a better course for the future of Schoharie County.