I’m bracing myself for my annual Fourth of July visit to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Family members and friends in Cedar Rapids have sent me video clips and photos of the devastating flooding, but I still haven’t been able to completely get my mind around it. They tell me story after story of people who lost everything—their homes submerged, all their possessions piled up on the curb. My mom forwarded me an e-mail from a friend who said, “The sun now shines, summer days seem lovely, water is lowering, but still many, many souls here are damaged. You wish, without the ability, to be able to prevent this from ever happening to anyone, anywhere on this planet....and you get the feeling that nothing will ever be quite the same again for Cedar Rapids.”
The flood caused more than $1 billion worth of damage (most say that estimate is low) in Cedar Rapids alone and wiped out millions of acres of crops on the fields surrounding my city—another blow in itself. Much of my hometown’s prosperity hinges on corn; Cedar Rapidians celebrate the grain with summer festivals and curse it when the smell of the Corn Sweeteners plant wafts over town. When I was growing up, my mom would take us kids downtown to watch Playtime Poppy, a giant dancing ear of corn, at the Children’s Theater; our family could eat three or four dozen ears of sweet corn on a summer night.
There won’t be any sweet corn for our Fourth of July celebration this year, and the theater where we watched Playtime Poppy may or may not survive the damage those floodwaters wrought. It’s been a rotten break for Cedar Rapids—and for all of us, as the loss of those corn crops will surely result in higher food and gas prices nationwide (think high fructose corn syrup and ethanol).
I head home with trepidation, but I also know Cedar Rapids will rebuild—and in fact, has already started. In another e-mail I received this week, a woman from Cedar Rapids wrote, “The amazing part of it all is how everyone is pulling together and helping one another out....I must say, I AM PROUD TO CALL THE CITY OF FIVE SEASONS MY HOME! We will make it through. Keep holding on.......”
I believe her. And I believe that Thomas Wolfe was wrong…you can go home again. No matter what.