It’s odd, to step into a city in crisis. I went home to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, over the Fourth of July holiday to visit friends and family. The town had been devastated by flooding just weeks before, and everyone was still reeling. The newspapers were full of survivors’ stories and information for people—many of whom had lost literally everything—who needed help. On TV, a local business leader urged Cedar Rapidians to buy local—saying that now, more than ever, this was crucial for the town to survive. That “we will survive” mentality was pervasive, even if it did hold a small note of desperation.
The epic flood had washed out most of the downtown and surrounding homes, leaving more than 24,000 people without shelter. My family members told of days spent helping families carry soaked and moldy possessions to the curb, where piles of debris sat waiting to be hauled away.
Weeks after the flood, I saw grim-faced homeowners still hauling out stoves and refrigerators, soggy boxes of memorabilia and clothing. The vast majority of these folks had no flood insurance; they’d been promised that the Cedar River would never flood, and we all had a faith in levees and human engineering that proved unfounded.
The miracle in Cedar Rapids is that not one single life was lost to this flood. I ache for the folks who have lost their homes, but I also have faith in the people who make up the true fabric of my hometown. And they still need our help. Donations can be made to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Flood 2008 Fund.