Guest Columnist

After the storm, we found resilience, determination and kindness in Cedar Rapids

U.S. flags are posted on the curb outside of a home that saw tree damage as volunteers work to clean up the yard during
U.S. flags are posted on the curb outside of a home that saw tree damage as volunteers work to clean up the yard during a clean-up on Second Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Never in my life did I imagine that I would experience a hurricane in Iowa! Living in Florida for over 20 years and being in three hurricanes there, I have never experienced a “storm” of this magnitude.

As I drove home on Monday, Aug. 10, all I could see was destruction in every direction. I kept thinking, “How could this be — two major disasters in one year?” The pandemic is global but this inland hurricane is regional and its devastating impact is everywhere in the derecho’s pathway.

As the president and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, all I could think about was “No” — Cedar Rapids cannot be impacted again by a natural disaster! This is not fair.

The next day was sunny and bright and I saw the true Cedar Rapids spirit and glowing human sunshine. People helping people they did not even know, neighbors meeting neighbors whom they did not know before to plan for “team based” clean up. Faith communities from the area and from out of state helping complete strangers “because it was the right thing to do.” The images of destruction were still there but were disappearing because of the kindness and tireless energy, resilience, determination, and kindness of volunteers, neighbors, strangers, and of course our service angels from the utility companies locally, nationally, and even internationally (from Canada).

This was a horrific storm. We will feel its impacts in our community and region for months and years as we plant new trees for future generations. As we pause to be thankful for what we have, let us remember that the sun will continue to shine in our community and it will shine even brighter if we continue to support our local businesses, nonprofits, art and cultural institutions, faith based communities, and of course our neighbors … this is indeed Iowa!

Cecilia Rokusek is president/CEO at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.

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