Guest Columnist

Share your 2020 derecho story with future generations

A shagbark hickory is among the large trees that fell during the storm last Monday, Aug. 10. Photographed at Oak Hill Ce
A shagbark hickory is among the large trees that fell during the storm last Monday, Aug. 10. Photographed at Oak Hill Cemetery in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

‘We are living in historic times.” It seems like every time I turn on the television in 2020, I hear the word “historic.” “Historic times” seems to mean everything changed. It certainly seems like things have changed.

My wife and I have lived in our house for less than a year. When the derecho hit our area last week, we lost a pair of 100+ year-old oak trees, among many others on our property. To some, they were just trees. We should be thankful, right? We have our health, our safety, relatively minor property damage. We’re just minus a few plants that we had owned less than a year, basically.

But we are grieving. It is amazing to us how much these trees have witnessed. They were seedlings when the 19th Amendment was passed. They’ve seen the river rise countless times, and even though the trees were perched on a substantial hill, the flood of 2008 rose very close to their roots. These trees provided an enormous canopy that turned our home into a treehouse like setting. It was only a week before the derecho that we hung a hammock on the branches, my wife’s new favorite place to read.

And then, in an instant, the trees are gone. Along with pieces of our local past that have connected us for decades. Sometimes “change” means loss.

A few days after the storm, I saw my wife searching the internet for trees. She wants to find a type of tree that will replace the ones we lost, and choose a variety that will be more enduring for those who will come after us. She wants to leave a legacy. After all, what is a legacy if not for something that the past gives the future, right?

Many of you are grieving just as we are. We at The History Center (Linn County Historical Society) want to collect your photos and hear your stories as part of our collective healing process — and as a way to share this moment with future generations. Show and tell us about what you’ve lost, help us memorialize damaged local landmarks (and yes, trees), and share with us your stories of our community coming together to help one another. We will collect these stories and photos to share back with you, our community.

To share your stories and photos, simply go to historycenter.org/derecho, and upload your photos. Be sure to include the name of the photographer, names of people in each photo, location or landmark being photographed, and why the subject is meaningful to you. Your lens of what Linn County lost in the derecho will help us to tell a more complete story of the impact on our community.

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Or go to thegazette.com website, visit the Iowa Derecho page and click “share your experiences here.”

Change may mean loss. However, our loss is a chance to for all of us to leave a legacy — a gift of our story — for future generations.

Jason Wright is the executive director of The History Center in Cedar Rapids.

Note: The Gazette and The History Center are looking to residents to help document the impact of the derecho. By sharing your stories, images and experiences, this milestone moment in our community history will be preserved. Please see our terms and conditions.

As a thank you for providing your story, 10 random winners will receive a complimentary $10 gift card to their choice of a wide variety of stores and restaurants.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.