I look to my left and see city lights reflected off dark water, hear the sound of evening traffic on the freeway, smell the Quaker Oats factory and I feel at home. As I walk to work I marvel at how quickly the city has recovered and yet when I volunteer and “muck” houses I see just how much work is left to do. I find myself unable to express my current feelings practically, so instead I invite you to read this diary entry that took the outpouring of my heart and shared with my absent friends the vivid images that have never left me.
I wanted to share with you an excerpt from my diary about the Iowa Flood. July 10, 2008
I still look out my fifth story window, and can see in my mind’s eye the overlapped image of Coe Rd completely submerged. It was a paranoid anxiety that took me over when my building lost power yesterday. The same morning light, the same black, empty halls… but this time there was no water coming up to the back of the doorstep.
When driving downtown at night, it’s something I would imagine from a deserted town, or a set for a post-apocalyptic film. What used to be the brightest part of downtown is darker than the loneliest highway roads. The reflection of your headlights catches your eyes; smeared window fronts, washed-out brick, and lifeless neon signs. Throughout the city are mounds of priceless memories, unpurchased merchandise, and countless pieces of people’s homes.
On Coe Rd is a second hand store. After the flood, people volunteered to pick up hundreds of pieces of clothing. Clothes are stacked, higher than the small brick shop, and sit on the curb, molding in a large pile, waiting for the city to relocate it to a landfill.
I work at a government funded academic camp for high school students. The camp is at Coe College, which sits just at the edge of the 500 yr flood plain. We still are trying to recover from just having one building flooded (which is the building that held 1/2 of the campus’ circuits ). I’ve been living on the fifth floor of a dorm building for five weeks, living with the high school students, and alongside housed volunteers, without air conditioning or hot water,
Friday the 13th, the day after the “Epic Surge”, it was more of a shocking and exciting, “I have to see it for myself” attitude that I held, and I raced to go downtown to see the flood.
Just this past Independence Day I had the day to myself, and thought about what I’d do. I love walking downtown to the confectionery on 5th &3rd, picking up some fudge, grabbing a smoothie at the Blue Strawberry and hanging out at the downtown park. I started heading south, and stopped. There is nothing there anymore. Nothing that allured pedestrians exists. I turned around and walked 20 blocks north to my friend’s apartment. I can hardly believe all the entertainment is now at Edgewood or Collins.
I wanted to spend every Thursday night at the Piano Bar. I was excited to show freshmen the downtown life. I wanted to get away from campus and eat a delicious greek restaurant. I have so many great memories of delicious food and friendship at Brick’s. I wanted to take my friends to the Czech Village to enjoy the fine life of Czech desserts.
I miss the smell of Crunchberries wafting from the Quaker Oats factory, instead of the putrid smell of the foul river and molding city.
When it rains I look at puddles on the sidewalk and think of the flooding. When grey clouds loom over 380 east outside my window I think of how the city I started to call “home” was submerged.
It’s something to cry about, I think. I don’t know the reason why someone should cry, but there is something so intense and personal about these things… I feel like the flood shocked me, and the receding waters sucked away my memories.
The vivid color of my memories were utterly soluble….