What it takes to rebuild

As I sit at my high and dry computer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I continue to think about how lucky most of us were in the recent flood of 2008.

Yes. It was a record by a wide margin.

Thousands of people were evacuated. Homes were lost. A lot of ’em. Businesses were lost. A lot of them, and some won’t come back. Lives were disrupted.

Cedar Rapids lost its police HQ, main fire station, city hall, main public library. The county lost its offices, sheriff’s office and jail. Cedar Rapids lost one of its two hospitals. The list is too long to recount here.

The University of Iowa had water in 20 major buildings.

Recovery will take years. Some may never recover. 

At one point, seven radio stations were either off-air or operating with emergency facilities.

Folks from around the country have written or called. I asked them, “Did you see the pictures? It’s worse than that.”

However, we are very lucky. It could have been even worse. There were no lives lost in our immediate area attributable to the flooding. There were only two looters nabbed, so not much looting. Flooded areas were heavily patrolled.

The personal loss to some is incomprehensible. House. All personal property. Car. But they survived.

Cedar Rapids community leaders had the wisdom to talk to the folks in Grand Forks, North Dakota. You remember them. In 1997 they lost 80% of their downtown to flood and fire. They have seen the devastation and they have fought back.

Cedar Rapids, Coralville, Iowa City, Palo all have the spirit to rebuild. To recommit.

To paraphrase from “The Six Million Dollar Man” (1974), “A city barely alive. We can rebuild. We have the technology. We have the capability…”

Perhaps most important, we still have the spirit!

by: Eliot Keller, president and general manager of KZIA Radio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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