Schoharie: "We're going to make it."


By Jim Poole

Schoharie: "We

As the Village of Schoharie begins the long process physical recovery, Mayor John Borst wants village morale to recover with it.
So far, he's seeing signs of that recovery. Going door to door, Mayor Borst got the sense that the gloom is slowly lifting after Irene's devastation--not for everyone, but for many.
That wasn't the case 10 days ago. Then, many families claimed they'd had enough and wouldn't rebuild.
"People were really fed up," Mayor Borst said. "It was almost overwhelming. FEMA wasn't helping the way people expected, most of them got zero from their homeowners' insurance. The sentiment was that they weren't staying."
This past week made a difference, however, as mounds of debris were picked up and homeowners and business people continued cleaning and repairing.
"We're trying to hold the fabric of this community together--that social fabric," Mayor Borst said. "It's the people who are important, not the buildings."
He said more than 275 homes and businesses suffered significant water damage--in other words, over four feet of water on the ground floor.
Such damage caused despair at first--Mayor Borst called it "A canyon of gloom"--but the mood changed as homeowners pitched in and dozens, even hundreds, of volunteers turned out to help.
Among those were 300 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from around the Capital District came to Schoharie, Middleburgh and Esperance to help clean up.
"They told us to come to the Mormon Church and we'll divide you up," said one woman working at the Generations antique shop in Schoharie.
Others turned out as well.
"We've had a lot of support," said Debbie Collins, who was working on her Fair Street home. "We had 20 farm boys from somewhere in New York come and muck out the basement."
Although she and her husband, Randy Jenkins, had planned to sell their home earlier this year, now they'll repair it and wait.
"Every day it's getting better," Ms. Collins said.
Dawn Johnson, whose home on Main Street was battered by flooding, agreed.
Like others, Ms. Johnson and her husband Peter plan to rent a house in Cobleskill while repairing--and then returning to--their Schoharie home.
"Some days I almost lose it," said Ms. Johnson, working on Saturday. "But we're in it for the long haul. There are so many wonderful people here. We're not leaving."
Not all, however, feel that way. More than one gutted home had "For sale as is," and other owners said they'd had enough.
One of those was Betsy Guernsey, who had given her Knower Avenue home to her son and daughter.
The home is a classic Sears, Roebuck house that the company used to transport in pieces, then have it assembled on site. The Guernsey home arrived on the old Middleburgh and Schoharie Railroad.
"It looks beautiful from the outside," said Ms. Guernsey, almost in tears as workers hauled out debris. "I had finally gotten it just the way I wanted.
"But I'm not going to go through it any more. We've had floods before, but not like this one."
Mayor Borst understands and sympathizes with that sentiment, but he also hopes it changes.
"People who have decided to rebuild are an inspiration to those who are undecided," he said. "People are pulling together."
Mayor Borst pointed to several instances of residents who vowed they'd "never set their head on a pillow in Schoharie again" had changed their minds a week later.
"I think spirits are starting to rise," he said. "I'm just asking people not make any hasty decisions.
"We can get this done, a little at a time. We've got a great bunch of people, and we're gonna make it."