MONTPELIER, Vt. — Marc Leibowitz and his fiancée, Janina Stegmeyer, were in Germany, snowed in last Christmas when they got engaged and picked a Vermont inn for their rustic farm wedding. Now they've been stranded again, in Pittsfield, Vt. — with about 60 of their wedding guests — because Tropical Storm Irene washed away bridges and their main road out.
At least a dozen of those wedding guests managed to get airlifted out on Tuesday. One guest contracted a helicopter because his mother was running out of breast cancer medication. He said the pilot made two other trips picking up groups of five, including an 80-year-old who also needed medication.
The newlyweds never imagined that the story of their wedding would turn out quite like this.
"Basically we had an unbelievable wedding. She told me on Saturday night it was the most perfect dream wedding she could have imagined," said Leibowitz, 31, an artist from Brooklyn, N.Y., "and then on Sunday morning ... the weather changed."
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The group expected heavy rains but thought the brunt of the storm would miss this tiny town in the Green Mountains. Many of their friends thanked them for getting them out of New York City, the projected storm target, and into Vermont, he said.
"And then it hit," he said.
The small Tweed Creek that runs in front of their bridal cottage at Riverside Farm bed-and-breakfast rose rapidly on Sunday and flooded the bridesmaids' studio apartment below, filling it with mud.
Leibowitz and his bride, 28, from Brooklyn, decided they needed to get to the farm's other inn, where relatives — many of Janina's from Germany and in the U.S. for the first time — were staying. The couple rushed out of their brunch with some of their bridesmaids, despite the owners' warning that the road was giving way and that they should move up the mountain to stay with them.
Their four-wheel drive rental car was able to make it over the bridge to the Amee Farm.
"After we passed, the bridge collapsed," he said.
All of the groomsmen and one of the bridesmaids were left behind at the inn now cut off from the road.
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On Monday morning, some of the groomsmen rigged up ladders to cross the stream and the remains of the bridge so that they could hike in and out and from inn to inn, about a mile over the ravaged road by walking and climbing.
"We were hiking in supplies, food and water," he said.Video: Northeast still battling Irene aftermath (on this page)
They've been told that it could be seven to 10 days before Route 100, which goes through the town, is repaired enough for them to get out. The road, their only way out, is completely washed out in both directions.
To pass the time, the couple and their wedding guests have pitched in around town, shoveling mud from homes, getting supplies to elderly residents living in the hills, and working at the Original General Store, which has become the central gathering place in town. The wedding party has a history of helping others.
"A lot of my friends, we all went through September 11th together, and we all volunteered," Leibowitz said. They did the same thing during a New York City power outage.
Leibowitz said the general store's owners have been cut off from their own home and have been staying at the store overnight.
By Tuesday, guests were picking vegetables from the farm to prepare for dinner. Townspeople, without electricity or phone services, were encouraged to bring perishable food to the general store, where it can be stored in a generator-powered refrigerator, Leibowitz said.
"There's 60 of us in a town of 400 and we're becoming a major drain on their resources," he said. Another 60 guests were able to leave safely before the storm worsened.
The Leibowitzes were supposed to leave Thursday for their Hawaiian honeymoon.
To keep spirits up, they've been playing charades, and some of their musician friends who entertained at the wedding have been playing music at night.
"Different things to keep everybody from kind of freaking out. A couple of people have been freaked out and others have been really scared but we're trying to keep people calm."
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