This article first appeared in the February 16th, 2012 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Audrey Richardson
Special To The Standard
When Irene hit Woodstock and the surrounding areas, it not only caused physical devastation, but was also indirectly responsible for the death of William Flower, Sr.
Flower passed away from injuries sustained in a fall while checking on his home just after the flood. From this tragedy, Flower’s son William Jr. has created a book that captures both the devastation and the hope after Irene struck and is written in memory of Flower’s beloved father.
The book is titled “Irene: The Flood of 2011 Woodstock Vermont” and it’s been flying off the shelves at F.H. Gillingham’s, Shiretown Books and The Yankee Bookshop. The book is a combination of vivid photographs showing local damage as well as commentary on the experience from Flower himself.
After getting helping to evacuate his parents to the Woodstock Inn, Bill Flower took the next available opportunity to get out and shoot some picture of what had happened to the town of Woodstock. With his 15-year-old daughter Annie by his side, they worked their way through every corner of the defaced town capturing Irene’s devastating effects. “I said to my daughter, we have to go, this is history and we have to capture it so we don’t forget,” said Flower about the experience. In taking these photos, Flower had not intended on publishing a book, but after the death of his father he felt that it was an appropriate way to honor his memory. “He wasn’t only my father, he was my best friend. I saw him almost every day.”
After the elder Flowers were evacuated from their Gulf Avenue home William Flower senior went back to survey at the damage and while on the basement stairs he slipped on the mud and silt, braking five ribs and puncturing a lung. He died nearly a month later from injuries he sustained during the fall. When he first entered his basement, William Flower was looking at over five feet of water that invaded his home. Flooding of this magnitude was commonplace during the storm, and Flower’s book captures many of these affected residences and businesses from the Village of Woodstock to East and West Woodstock. And to think Woodstock was only one example of the state-wide devastation.
Flower created his book using his own photographs to capture this devastation and validate the Woodstock’s Irene experience. Flower captures the debris and damage on the banks of the Ottauquechee River, the rising water on streets like Maple and Gulf Avenue as well as the destruction of buildings such as the White Cottage and the Vermont Standard.
“It’s about giving back, there were so many locals involved, it is a keepsake for them,” said Flower about his book. Flower says that his book is a Catch-22, in that although it causes him to relive a difficult time in his life, it is cathartic for himself and many others.
After the book was first published Flower went around to homes affected and gave them a copy of the book. “I just knocked on their doors, handed them the book and said, you’re not alone,” said Flower about the importance of his book. When asked about the future of his book Flower would like to write a revised addition including Bridgewater. For now Flower is simply busy keeping his book on the shelves and hopes that people find comfort in the shared experience.
“I think my father would have loved this book. Especially because of the picture my daughter took on the cover. He was very patriotic,” said Flower.