CEDAR RAPIDS — Karen Dlask, 75, had a throwback moment when she returned Wednesday afternoon to the Time Check neighborhood for the dedication of a memorial plaza, Gateway to the River archway, and West Side Rising sculpture.
She parked where the garage of her Ellis Boulevard NW home used to be. It was one of thousands of homes destroyed in the 2008 flood.
Dlask described seeing the new plaza where homes once stood as “bittersweet,” but she said she is glad it was erected.
“A lot of work went into it, and I hope over time it makes a difference,” she said.
The 10th anniversary Wednesday of the historic Cedar River crest was a day of reflection for many residents and city officials recalling the devastation, the efforts by many in the recovery and all the progress that has been made since.
Wednesday featured several tours of flood-impacted areas, and some 200 people turned out for the memorial dedication.
The river crested at 31.12 feet at 10:15 a.m. June 13, 2008, destroying more than 5,000 homes, 300 public buildings and damaging more than 900 businesses in Cedar Rapids. It penetrated 10 square miles, or 14 percent, of the city. But no lives were lost to it.
We have not forgotten the loss, damage and disruption, Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz told those at the dedication of the plaza and sculpture, just east of O Avenue and Ellis Boulevard NW.
“We are standing here today as a community to remember together and to acknowledge the significance of this day 10 years ago,” he said. “A day that continues to shape us.”
Gary Hinzman, who helped bring the West Side Rising sculpture to reality, said the art reflects the wishes of the community, which influenced what the piece would look like and where it would go.
“We let the community guide the process,” Hinzman said.
Residents such as Gary Stansbury, who lives near the plaza, said protection from the river remains top of mind.
“Our neighborhood wants that dike,” Stansbury said. Officials “forget things easily. Having this here, we can bring them down here to remind them what the neighborhood has been through and what we’ve done on our own.”
Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart vowed to not give up until the city has a permanent flood protection system.
“Our hope and our fight is that no one in Cedar Rapids should ever have to face that type of devastating loss again,” Hart said. “We want our neighborhood, our business, our community to know we are working hard to protect everyone in this community. Our efforts will continue until we have permanent flood protection on both sides of the river.”
Chet Culver, who was Iowa’s governor at the time of the flood as well as during tornadoes the same summer and has family ties to Cedar Rapids, spoke at the dedication. He recalled how communities put politics aside to recover, crediting citizens and city staff.
“There’s no tougher area than Cedar Rapids (that) was hit,” Culver said. “This was the eye of the storm in many ways. What came through day in and day out in flood recovery and the flood fight was resiliency of the people of Cedar Rapids and people of Iowa.”
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