Today a few of my classmates jumped in the van and drove from Dubuque to Cedar Rapids with a Faculty member and another “normal” student (meaning one who actually lives at the school rather than tele-commutes). We spent the day mucking out a house about 3/4 of a mile from the river downtown. The flood line was about 6 feet on the outside of the house, meaning that the basement was submerged and that water was about waist-high inside on the first floor.
We carried all sorts of stuff out of the house, gutted several rooms (down to plaster or studs) and emptied bucket after bucket of some of the nastiest muck I’ve seen in a while. It was wonderful to do some physical work after all the mental work this week. And it was wonderful fellowship time throughout. But it was so very sad to see the so many houses with piles out front… one for wood, another for metal, others for electrical, hazardous and just general waste.
So many of the houses affected were beautiful old Victorians or similar styles, likely built almost 100 years ago. Plenty of gingerbread details on the outside and lost of wood trim at the floorboards and moldings. Hardwood flooring, hand built cabinetry- the sort of stuff that is sorely missing in the suburban developments so prevalent today.
There were triage labels on all the houses in the area – not unlike the spray-paint markings in New Orleans post-Katrina. Also like Katrina, the clean-up work will continue long after the last news organizations are gone. In fact, it’s likely that the many small towns in the flood corridor have already seen the last of the coverage. Thank goodness for young men like the volunteer leaders we met today.
One is a student in New York and the other at Iowa State. Both have given their entire summers to volunteer through Americorps in the flood corridor. They have led teams of volunteers (church groups, civic groups, etc) as they gut and prep houses for rebuilding. They couldn’t tell us how many they’d seen cleaned out since June, but a crew of about 20 of us had 2 houses at 80% done in one Saturday. And they were in the thick of it, with instruction and encouragement as needed. They also were well-acquainted with hammers and pry-bars.
I pray that they and all the volunteers who are working from Cedar Rapids to Saint Louis are blessed with safety as they work to meet the needs of so many who are displaced and hurting after the flood.