Vermont town's new bridge offers lesson in rebuilding

(CBS News) Vermont cares very much for its covered bridge so it's no surprise that when they lost one of their oldest ones to a big storm not so long ago, they said no thanks to a modern replacement. They wanted another one, just like the old one.

To understand the triumph of cars traveling through this covered bridge in Bartonsville, Vt., you've got to start here: August of 2011. Tropical storm Irene swept through the tiny village, taking the bridge with it. The collapse was captured by Sue Hammond, a 5th generation Bartonsville resident.

The Bartonsville covered bridge as it was being destroyed by Hurricane Irene.
CBS News/Sue Hammond

"It was a strong, I mean proud exit in a way ... that covered bridge, that was my entry home, you know?" Hammond said. "No matter where I went in the world, when I came down that road off of the highway and into Bartonsville, the covered bridge was my gateway. I knew I was home."

It had stood for 141 years, one of the oldest covered bridges in a state filled with them. By the time it landed in a farmer's field downstream, a decision had already been made -- up-stream.

"We all turned to each other and said, 'We're not having a concrete bridge in Bartonsville. We're gonna fight to get our covered bridge back." Hammond said.

When asked what the feeling was, Hammond replied: "Determination."

Sue Hammond
CBS News

Now, after cobbling together insurance money, government aid and private donations, Bartonsville is getting more than its bridge back -- it's restoring some of its soul.

Which is why, as Sue Hammond watched superstorm Sandy wash the Jersey Shore's landmarks into the ocean, she could relate.

"With the right resources and the right community engagements, you can pick up the pieces and rebuild in a way that's appropriate for your community," she said.

In the green mountains of Vermont, this new covered bridge is more than just a symbol. It's a guide for Sandy's victims and a hopeful sign of the times.

The newly constructed covered bridge in Bartonsville, Vt.
The newly constructed covered bridge in Bartonsville, Vt.
CBS News
  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.