The dam broke at three AM, four hours after the storm hit. Fortunately, only the North Dam was affected, leaving the other two intact. Had they been breached as well, the eighteen thousand residents of Wilton, Maine, would be former residents of a town that no longer existed.
The destruction came as a surprise to everyone, especially the engineers that had certified the dams as “low risk” just eighteen months before. Certainly Hurricane Nicholas was a powerful storm, especially for early August, but no more so than others that had struck the area in recent years.
But the dam completely came apart from the pressure and flooded the areas in Wilton it had sworn to protect. Because it was the least important dam of the three, this meant that three streets on the outskirts of Wilton were flooded and badly damaged, as was the park and the small, private airport.
The only citizen to lose his life was seventy-three-year-old Warren Simpson, who suffered a heart attack during the chaotic evacuation process. He was flown to Bangor Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
The people of Wilton were resilient and had no doubt they would bounce back from the storm damage. It would cost money and take time, but the town whose charter had been ratified in eighteen forty-eight made plans to persevere and overcome.
Of course, they had no idea what was coming.
I have a lot of anniversaries. I try not to pay attention to them, but sometimes it’s hard. Dates are everywhere, from the TV when you switch channels, to the front of cell phones.
March thirty-first is my birthday. January fourteenth is the day that Jenny and I were married. September seventeenth is the day I joined the force. April first is the day I was promoted and officially became Chief Jake Robbins. My real name is Jason Robbins, but how Jason became Jake is a puzzle my parents never adequately explained.
August seventh is the day Jenny was murdered; I try not to change channels or look at my cell phone that day.
Of course, there are some anniversaries whose actual date I don’t even know. For instance, I have no idea when I got to Afghanistan, or when I left. I don’t have a clue when our old friend Katie Sanford introduced us to Roger Hagel, the guy she would eventually marry. Nor do I know the date that Jenny and I first went out with them, although I do remember that the four of us went bowling and then to dinner.
While I know the date Roger murdered Jenny, and even know that it happened at 3:00 PM, I don’t know the date he was convicted, nor the date a few months later when he was murdered in prison. I know that I learned of their affair on June nineteenth, but I don’t know exactly when it began.
I was tempted to leave Wilton after Jenny died, but I never took any action toward that end. I had the job I always wanted, more good friends than I could ever need, and was living in a town that I liked a great deal. For a person who never had much of an interest in putting down roots, I somehow found myself rooted.
All I didn’t have was Jenny, but no matter where I went, she would never be with me. Roger Hagel saw to that.
Pretty much everything in Wilton reminds me of Jenny, but that’s okay. I want to remember her, the good times and the bad. Especially the good.
So I stayed, and life went on.
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