Joe Holt ’83 M’98, Director, Institutional Giving
As a Chestertown resident for more than 30 years, I am among the fortunate many who have the Chester River as a bucolic backdrop to daily life. We often take its beauty and its might for granted. The beauty is ever present. The river’s might shows itself less often but is nonetheless awe inspiring.
The Chester River showed its full might during Hurricane Isabel in September 2003. I was then serving as John Toll’s chief of staff and as a member of the College’s Emergency Operations Group. As Isabel roared up the East Coast and gained Category 5 status, Washington College took the unprecedented step of closing the campus and evacuating students. Most went home. Those who could not go to their own homes traveled to the homes of fellow students or were taken in by generous families in the Chestertown community.
On the morning of Sept. 18, we awoke to the Chester River overflowing its banks by as much as 8 feet. Water Street lived up to its name, and the College’s Custom House had more than 3 feet of water in the ground floor. A human chain formed to ferry books, archaeological research, and artifacts to higher ground.
The water receded, repairs were made, and life returned to normal. What remains, beyond the high-water mark on a Custom House wall, are the vivid memories of how mighty this beautiful river can be.