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In hard-hit Ludlow, Vermont, cleanup is underway: 'We are taking care of one another'

 Twelve people in grubby, muddy clothes pose together for a picture.
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Alex Del Tufo and her father David own Eight Oh Brew, a bar in downtown Ludlow. Alex says flood waters rose nearly to their ceiling and the bar is in rough shape. She's been amazed at how many of their patrons showed up to help clean it out. They posed on Wednesday for a portrait.

Dump trucks and heavy equipment beep and bulldoze on either side of Ludlow, clearing the roads and stirring up a hazy layer of dust.

The wet sludge that covered much of the downtown has begun to dry, but the flood’s footprint is everywhere.

Orion Jones stands near the back door of the Main and Mountain Bar and Motel. His work boots are covered in sludge and mud is spattered across his T-shirt. “Yesterday we were just focused on getting water out of this basement," he says, pointing down a nearby stairwell. "We’ve moved out a bunch of washer dryers and appliances, but most everything has had to go. So a lot of lifting!”

 A young man in muddy boots and shorts stands in a flooded basement.
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Orion Jones was visiting Cavendish, Vermont for the weekend and couldn't leave because of the flooding. So he and a group of friends have spent the last several days helping businesses in Ludlow clean up.

Jones is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and happened to be spending the weekend with friends in Cavendish. He couldn’t leave because of the flooding, so he and his friends headed to Ludlow to help with cleanup.

He steps down a darkened stairway to show the water damage in the motel's basement.

Water still puddles on part of the floor, and there's a pile of silt in the corner. A dank smell fills the room. "Oh my God, yes," agrees Jones. "And this pump has been going for 24 hours."

Thankfully, he says, the bar storage area fared better, and most items were on higher shelves.

 A person uses a tool to clean mud and dirt in front of a blue building
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Bryson Lawrence helps with cleanup in Ludlow on Wednesday.

Jones walks across the street to the Homestyle Hostel to lend a hand there. Abby Childs, her husband Danny, and another friend are shoveling silt out of a back room.

The floor is slippery and there's mud everywhere. Abby Childs points to a water line on the wall. It's almost up to her armpit.

Danny Childs walks out of the room, arms straining, with a plastic bucket filled with muck. "We've filled fifty of these today, just in this room," he says.

The Homestyle Hostel sits right up against the Black River, which today is a muddy brown. The building's driveway is filled with mud piles and discarded furniture and appliances. A red KitchenAid mixer looks sadly out of place covered with mud on the steps.

 A red, dirty KitchenAid mixer sits in a bin on wooden steps
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
The Homestyle Hostel in Ludlow sits right up against the Black River, which today is a muddy brown. A red KitchenAid mixer looks sadly out of place covered with mud on the steps.

Abby Childs moved to Ludlow in 2017. Her home wasn’t impacted by the flooding, she says, but so many others in town have been.

"My best friends own these businesses," she says, pointing to the hostel and the motel and bar across the street. "They're my Ludlow family, and I couldn't imagine spending a day any different."

Childs is a graphic designer and owns her own business. "I sat down yesterday trying to work and said, not a chance," she says. "I had to come over here, 'cause the destruction is unfathomable."

 Two men who are cleaning up from a flood carry metal shelving to a dumpster.
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Volunteers clean out the Eight Oh Brew bar in Ludlow Wednesday. Alex DelTufo was there with her father David. They say their family owned business was hit hard by flood waters, which nearly reached the ceiling. "We're in pretty rough shape, and the damage is worse than we expected," said Alex. "But people have been showing up to help and today's been amazing, she said. "Many of these folks are our patrons and we couldnd't be more grateful."

Alex Del Tufo and her father David own the Eight Oh Brew, a bar just down the street that the family opened last year. "We've had water levels close to the ceiling and so we're in pretty rough shape," Alex says. "But people just keep showing up," she says, pointing to a nearly a dozen volunteers who are carrying kegs of beer and metal shelving into the parking lot and hosing down glassware. "These are mostly just our patrons who have offered to help," she says, smiling. "Amazing."

Down the street, Craig Goodman stands in a white apron greeting people in the parking lot of his pizzeria.

 Six people talk on a front porch of a restaurant
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Craig Goodman (wearing a white apron) chats with locals at his pizzaria in Ludlow. Goodman says he's been in business for 24 years and his first restaurant was completely destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene. "It was horrible, really really tough." This time he escaped any damage and so was offering free pizza to anyone in the community who came to help clean up on Wednesday. "I was lucky and I wanted to give back. This community is amazing."

Goodman, who lives in Proctorsville, says the flooding missed his home and restaurant — this time. "When Irene hit, our restaurant was in a different location, and we lost the whole place, so the struggle for us — it was tough — it was tough,” he says, getting teary.

Because he was able to open, Goodman wanted to give back with free pizza on Wednesday for anyone helping with the cleanup. By noon, he has a steady stream of tired and muddy patrons.

"Thank you for doing this," calls out one woman as she leaves the restaurant with a bottle of water.

"Yeah, thanks, Craig," calls out another.

Live updates: Vermonters take stock of flood damage, begin recovery

In a sea of mud and debris, Goodman’s American Pie offers a brief oasis where people can share stories, compare damage and reassure each other that things would get better.

"Everybody’s helping one another," says Susan Mordecai as she walks down the pizzeria's steps.

She and Plymouth neighbor Mitch Rae are taking a lunch break together.

“Arms are out there, open wide, holding everyone," Mordecai says. "That’s what it is, that’s what we do — Brave Little State."

 A man and woman hug over the counter at a pizza restaurant
Nina Keck
Vermont Public
Rachel Karner hugs a patron at Goodman's American Pie. The restaurant was giving out free pizza on Wednesday to anyone in town who was helping with flood clean up. Karner says she used to work at the restaurant years ago and is now a local art teacher. "But I have the summer off and knew they'd need help, so here I am. I am so proud of this restaurant and so proud of this community."

Rae nods in agreement. “We’re accustomed to not having access to a lot of the luxuries of big cities and towns, so we like to fall on neighborly love.”

“This sounds odd," Mordecai goes on, "but a few weeks ago, I, like a lot of people, were a bit heartbroken thinking. what are we doing? Where are we going as a world, as a community? Are we taking care of one another? It seemed like at that time we weren’t. But when this came about I’m like, no, we are taking care of one another. So there’s always a silver lining.”

Inside the restaurant, Goodman had a bucket for donations and had set up a Venmo account for people to donate to the community. He says within twelve hours, it had $10,000.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

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