Every major event has one, a single snapshot framing a moment that will forever stay in mind.
That snapshot is different for everybody.
When Hurricane Irene blitzed through our town last weekend our memory’s postcards ranged from fright while seeing a mighty oak splinter and miss your home as 90 mph winds tossed it around like a hot dog wrapper at a ball game, to anxiety while watching rescue workers transport a neighbor to a hospital.
It might be tranquility as a family normally scattered by the daily demands of their lives sit by candlelight at the dining room table to play cards or a board game and simply talk as families did before television and the Internet. Not quite the Fireside Chats in front of the radio listening to Roosevelt relaying war news, but the concept is the same.
The moment could be one of humor, such as the man seen walking down the aisle in Stop & Shop carrying in his arms four half-gallon containers of ice cream with the intensity of holding a jug of water in the desert. No cart, no basket, just the man grasping the ice cream that would soon be a party or creamy mess when the power went out.
Which it did throughout 91 percent of Ridgefield. The rest of the juice was turned off by the town for the safety of residents and workers doing cleanup work, which is days away in some areas.
With several pockets of town without power the prevailing sentiment in Ridgefield has been one of unity, cooperation and camaraderie. Despite our allegiances – Republican or Democrat, Red Sox or Yankees – there’s a commonality among us today.
"We’re all in this together,’’ said Tom Gotimer, a teacher and lawyer who lives in the southwest part of town, and Wednesday morning was one of the dozens who made Starbucks a haven.
Tuesday morning, laptops were out in full force with several people sitting on the floor and all the outlets in use. On Wednesday, somebody brought in a power strip to share and there were more.
"What impressed me most about this week was watching people help each other out,’’ Gotimer said. "I’ve seen a lot of cooperation. People are showing what our society is known for. I think people who wouldn’t do that is the rarity.’’
Julien Britz has lived in Ridgefield for 16 years with his wife Ilse, and also noted that atmosphere in Starbucks and other places in town where people have been thrust together.
"There’s an intriguing dynamic that occurs,’’ said Britz, adding there’s also something special that happens at home, like rediscovering the art of communicating.
"You’re at home at night and you start having these conversations. We talk like we used to,’’ Britz said.
There was a different sense before Hurricane Irene struck after midnight Saturday. Your attitude is something you can control or at least temper. We knew of Irene days before it hit, and those with a little Boy Scout in them were prepared and stocked up on bottled water, batteries and canned food earlier in the week and approached the storm with a sense of calm.
On Friday and Saturday morning, the Stop & Shop parking lot resembled the day before Thanksgiving. Nerves were a little torn.
The bread and milk aisles were bare. There wasn’t a D battery to be found. Canned tuna, fruits and vegetables were in high demand.
"I would say maybe 70 percent of it was impulse buying,’’ said Stop & Shop manager Tom King, who has seen runs on his store prior to blizzards and other storms, but not to this degree.
King compared notes with other store managers prior to the storm, and will do so again this week in preparation for future storms, like the one currently brewing in the Atlantic Ocean.
Many of us tossed perishables when the power went out. Stop & Shop was no different, and King isn’t sure of the dollar amount lost.
"We’re still figuring it out,’’ he said, before referring further questions to corporate headquarters. However, King said the store saved a considerable amount of meat and produce by storing them in refrigerated trucks.
Radio Shack experienced a run on D and C batteries, lantern batteries, portable radios, especially those with weather bands, and flashlights. It reached the point Saturday morning where a hand scrawled note was taped to the door denoting the items out of stock.
With many homes relying on cable for phone service or phones operating on batteries, Sam Forster of Radio Shack said there’s been a run on landline phones, with the store receiving some from out-of-state franchises as late as Wednesday.
There was also a run on gas, reminiscent of the lines in 1973 during the oil crisis.
Of course, depending on your attitude, a storm can turn into a party. Ridgefield Liquors did a booming business Friday night and Saturday morning.
"On Saturday morning, it was like Christmas Eve,’’ said owner Ken Whippermann.
With the power out Monday, Whippermann’s staff searched for products with flashlights, but there were no complaints the beer might have been a little warm.
With many still without power, restaurants in town Tuesday and Wednesday, and in Danbury, were packed, with some reporting waits of well over an hour.
On Monday, hot dog vendor Chez Lenard was busy and at one time had a line that stretched almost 40 feet. They ran out of chili and had to make a soda run, but owner Mike Principi was the only game in town.
"It was the craziest I’ve ever seen,’’ said Vaille Brink, who worked the stand Monday. "We had a line of over 30 people at one point. We were the only hot meal in town.’’
Warm food when you want it, picking up the phone to make a call; putting in a DVD, watching the Yankees – or even the Mets – or evening news, opening the refrigerator for a cold one or taking a hot shower and not having to drive to Danbury to do so at a friend’s house are the creature customs we take for granted.
"I miss the lights the most,’’ said Brie Winston, who lives near Starbucks, one of Ridgefield’s current hot spots. "But when I grew up in Ireland, we didn’t have any lights, only lamps. I’ve been through this before.’’
"I miss the electricity at night,’’ said Lauren Tripp of Fox Hill, who spent much of Wednesday morning at Starbucks and was among those whose electricity was turned off by the town. "There’s no food in the house.’’
Then, after a while she said what was on the mind of many: "I’m bored.’’
So, too, are the dozens of people who made it to Yanity Gym for a cup of coffee or the Red Cross shelter at the Recreation Center, where cots are for those who need to spend the night and wireless Internet access and chargers are available for cell phones and laptops.
Vince Ostrosky, who lives near the Ridgebury section of town, still doesn’t have power or water as of Wednesday afternoon. He, wife Robin and their three children use the Rec Center to shower, and said he’s mostly seen the good in people since Irene.
"We talk about family,’’ he said about what occupies their time at home in the evening after exploring one of Ridgefield’s pizza places.
"You need to learn how to be comfortable when you’re uncomfortable," Ostrosky said. "I believe most people are good, but if this continues on until Sunday, I wonder how people are going to be. Nerves can get frayed. People so far have been cooperative and kind. But you shouldn’t need a hurricane to have those values.’’