Guest Columnist

Renaissance after heartbreak of '08

Ann Poe, (left) and Linda Seger discuss layout of the Time Check REC Center at a possible location on the corner of Ellis Blvd. and J Ave NW, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, August 3, 2012. (Nikole Hanna/The Gazette)
Ann Poe, (left) and Linda Seger discuss layout of the Time Check REC Center at a possible location on the corner of Ellis Blvd. and J Ave NW, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, August 3, 2012. (Nikole Hanna/The Gazette)

Disasters are personal. Each person affected grieves and remembers their own reality of June 13, 2008.

On the day of the crest of the Red Cedar River my sister, Leigh Parkin (Darrow), and I sat on a curb at First Avenue and Fourth Street. We watched as the river we loved, grew up on, embraced through every season, and trusted now was lapping the railroad tracks; its channel and current redefined as it ran through the familiar buildings of our downtown. With our hearts aching, we cried uncontrollable tears for our community, for businesses and for the homes of families from our childhood. Our family home, like so many from our northwest neighborhood where lives were invested for generations, was simply gone. Sitting there, I felt the deepest form of betrayal by my dear old friend, the river.

TV9’s Beth Malicki and Bruce Aune broadcast for hours and became the link to our new reality. How could we possibly recover from the eighth-worst natural disaster at the time? It would take billions of dollars, and according to the national experts, 15 to 20 years for a full recovery. But recover we did — and in never-seen-before record time. The last project completed was the Northwest Recreation Center, just seven years post disaster.

It took a team of strong, committed leaders who loved Cedar Rapids and wanted her back stronger and better than ever. From residents to business owners, from local to state and federal officials, everyone came together for the good of the city. Under the leadership of City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, Mayor Ron Corbett, and the City Council, a determined city personnel team worked tirelessly for days, months and years. When all was said and done, we literally rewrote the book on disaster recovery programs and procedures, many of which now are being used around the country to streamline recovery efforts in other places.

My unsung heroes during those recovery days were Gov. Chet Culver, our state elected officials, and Lt. Gen. Ron Dardis, the chairman of the Rebuild Iowa Office. In their positions at the state level, they worked diligently to provide flood-affected communities with the necessary, more flexible state funding. This money helped our community to rebuild homes, to stabilize our municipal infrastructure, and to save local businesses. They deserve praise and recognition for their collective determination and for the speed at which we recovered.

On June 13, 2008, my broken heart never could have imagined the renaissance that would take place over the next 10 years. It has been nothing short of an amazing team effort — one that has been recognized nationally with many awards and accolades.

As a lifelong resident whose children and grandchildren live here, it is with a sincere heart that I thank the many who did so much to ensure that Cedar Rapids once again is a vibrant community.

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• Ann Poe is a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council and has served as community liaision for the Rebuild Iowa Office following the 2008 flood.

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