Hurricane Irene started with a report of a car full of people floating down the Mendon Brook.
It was Sunday afternoon and there was a small bridge washed out on Route 4 near the Sugar and Spice Restaurant.
The car was supposed to be in the raging river, about a half-mile above the popular restaurant, near Wheelerville Road.
The Rutland City Fire Department responded with a rescue truck in the pouring rain, but we could not find any car in the river.
However, something was strange. A small section of guardrail along the river was bent over.
And then suddenly the guardrail was gone.
Ooops, I guess it wasn't the car after all, it was the river crashing into the river wall, eroding it.
Next the rushing water washed out a single lane of road about 20-yards long.
Wow. "I got my front page photo," I thought.
I pulled my car way below the crack in the road so I didn't get stuck up near the Wheelerville bridge and waited to see if any more f the road would disappear into the rushing waters.
I was ready to drive down the road towards Rutland if any more of the road did give away, but I thought this was unlikely.
So I was sitting in my car, starting my laptop to send the photo, and I see flashes of light in my rearview mirror.
"What is that?"
I realized it was the telephone poles dropping into the river and transformers exploding.
Time to drive the half-mile down Route 4 to the flats near Sugar and Spice or I would be trapped between falling electic lines. The photo would have to "do."
Down at the flats, the river was spreading a wider path. Fifteen yards turned in to 25 yards. A calm brook turned into a roaring river. And it was closing on the bottom section of Route 4 now.
I was pretty safe here, I thought, as the river started creeping towards the road.
The 25-yard swath grew to 40 yards and didn't just cover the road, it started chewing it up like a 3 Musketeers Bar.
The river was brown with dirt and mud. It filled with huge crashing trees and the sound was amazing.
Cars were still coming down the road and several people stopped near me, but I warned them to leave.
I didn't think I was in danger, but I was a little uneasy with my intelligence of hanging out with two knuckleheads with IPhones in a Mercedes from "out-of-state."
I was ready to roll at any moment, and my car was pointed down the road. The tourists just stayed above the emergency cones like it was a moose sighting.
The river spread to about 50-yards wide and one lane of the road was now chewed up for about 100 yards. I guess that will have to "do," I thought.
So the photos from that "spot" ended up around the world as the Rutland Herald shared its photos with the Associated Press wire service: Front page of the Boston Globe print edition, the New York Times website and also on tens of thousands of newspaper web sites.
Yes, the same little road I take skiing every winter was now known around the country as a symbol of "Tropical Storm Irene." They ended up dropping the "hurricane," ironically.
The next day when I saw Route 4 and the damage, I realized that was an unsual experience I had witnessed and I better write it up. It's now a canyon.
I didn't take "too" many chances. But I can't tell you how bad I feel for the two brave men and their families who died checking the rising flood waters about 300 yards away from me that afternoon.
I didn't see them. They were on Meadow Brook Lane around the corner from me as I stood on Route 4.
A father and son team was trying to look out for the residents of Rutland.
They were swept away in the same rising waters I was staring at.
The dad worked for the Department of Public Works, and his son went with him to help keep an eye on him.
I will think of the son every time I go to the Proctor-Pittsford Country Club, where the young man worked. They are grieving him there. He had the day off because of the rain.
Now there are thousands of stories of local heroes helping neighbors through this trauma. Stories that will never be reported.
Stories that will only be carried in the hearts of grateful Vermonters.