By Erin Tiesman
On the dawn of Cedar Rapids’ second-highest flood, the citizens of a community united to fight rising waters.
Studies show social media use can really bum us out. It increases our insecurity, our envy and sometimes our temper. But social media’s true purpose and strength shone brightly this weekend for the people of Cedar Rapids, who braced for a 25-foot crest flood that became the second highest in history.
In preparation for the torrential rising water, Facebook groups were born, attracting thousands of members in a few short days. Many group members patiently waited by smartphones and laptops to see what neighborhood or organization needed help next. Responses flooded within minutes:
“On our way with a truckload; hope to find where they’re needed.”
“Heading to Czech village … where should we go?”
“Two guys with a truck and trailer. How can we help?”
A young woman asked for help sandbagging her cousin’s house. Within the hour, citizens responded with a loaded truck heading that direction for a sandbag drop-off.
That was the theme for the majority of the weekend—send for help, help arrives, job complete.
The speed and energy these volunteers gave to anyone in need was truly remarkable.
People without trucks or other equipment (helpful for hauling sandbags and evacuating residents) volunteered en mass to fill, tie and load sandbags at 24-hour sandbag locations.
As volunteers tirelessly plugged away filling sandbags, a licensed massage therapist brought her massage chair to Hawkeye Downs’ sandbag site, offering free massages and much-needed respite to the energetic and hard-working masses.
A special shout-out should be given to many local businesses, too, who donated pizza, sandwiches, coffee and more to volunteers and National Guardsmen throughout the city.
Even people who couldn’t help with heavy-duty lifting asked how they could assist. They collected food, water and other supplies to help sandbag volunteers keep going. They gathered clothing and games for evacuated families in relocation shelters.
Pets weren’t left out, either. Furry family members found temporary homes throughout the community, lifting another burden off the shoulders of those who needed somewhere to stay while waiting to return home.
There was one thing for sure in the city of Cedar Rapids that week: When word came that the swelling rivers in northern Iowa were going to affect the Cedar River, citizens in and around this bustling community didn’t hesitate to take it as a call to action. There was no shortage of heroes.
It’s been amazing to see the amount of support neighbors, friends and even strangers gave to one another. We seldom get to see community rally and unite like this, and in the climate of recent tragedies and a stifling political environment, it was a welcome sight.
Whether we were able to take a couple hours of our day to help sandbag or drop everything for four days to lend a hand wherever it was needed, when the flood waters said, “Jump!” the rest of us responded with, “How high?”
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 207.