I was in Iowa this past week, just days after massive floods did untold millions of dollars in damage and left several thousand people homeless, their houses contaminated and ruined, unsafe to inhabit. My heart goes out to the people of that state and I pray that the Lord will speed them in their recovery.
It was a day or so after the worst of it had hit and much of the water had receded, leaving the major roads clear in most places, although some streets and county roads were still closed off. I had no problems reaching my delivery customer, nor getting to my backhaul load a little while later, something that had worried me for a few days before I headed that way, having heard the news reports about the terrible conditions out there.
I had thought, "Has my company gone totally nuts, sending me out there, right in the middle of all that??!!" Hell, they'd be better off putting the stuff on a boat, from what I had been hearing! However, as I've reported before in these pages, I have a talent, seemingly, for being sent into disaster areas right when the disaster's still going on, or immediately afterward. I think I've earned my Master Of Disaster degree, in fact. Let's see -- I've been within five and ten miles of two tornadoes; I rode out a tropical storm in Florida, back in '99; I drag-raced and outran Hurricane Charley a few years after that; I caught the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in northern Alabama the day after she tore the hell out of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans; and now I can add post-flood Iowa to my list of accomplishments. What's next for me?? The aftermath of an earthquake?? I have to wonder. That's about the only natural disaster I haven't been in or near, so far.
It was still dark as I made my way through the outskirts of Des Moines, where many homes were abandoned. I wasn't right in town and I couldn't see much, but I had noticed several flooded low-lying cornfields as I drove in there. Crops totally washed away. The sun came up and revealed dry roads and blue skies. I'll bet those folks out there were glad to see that, at last!! More flooded fields, here and there. Normal corn rows on the higher ground, as always. Debris beside the highway in places, but nothing blocking the roads I traveled on. I reached my destination and got unloaded in short order. After a brief wait, I was on my way up to Webster City, just down I-35 from Mason City, where my online friend, Merry, lives. She had been telling me of the hardships they were enduring there, with the flooding. Her basement had more than a foot of water in it, and she thought everything down there was ruined.
But Webster City looked as if it had escaped the fate of Merry's town. Maybe it's on higher ground, but there was no debris piled up, no closed streets, as far as I could tell, and no water damage to any of the trailers at the shipper when I arrived. Guard there said that except for a few lower areas, they had made out pretty good around there. After a little longer wait this time, I trucked on out of there. There was some damage in Waterloo, from what I could see, but the real disaster was forty miles south of there, in Cedar Rapids. That city, and nearby Iowa City, had been hit the hardest of all.
The freeway through Cedar Rapids was clear and dry and the city was still there; it hadn't been washed away by the water. Quaker Oats was still right where it's always been, beside the Cedar River, which snakes its way through town. That river was the first indication of the disaster. It was still swollen, spilling out far above its normal banks. From the freeway, I-380, I could see many, many closed-off city streets, parts of which were still submerged. Debris was piled up all over the place, and blocked some thoroughfares completely. Houses stood in water, the level even with their first floors. Cars stood in water, some up to their roofs. Sump pumps were going; moving water out of flooded basements, through large hoses, leading to wherever. I caught the unpleasant scent of raw sewage in the air, put there when sewers erupted from the backpressure and the municipal treatment plant flooded over. A huge mess, otherwords. Reports on the radio stated that it would take months, maybe years, before things would get all the way back to normal there.
But people were out and about, working. Not sitting around, waiting for the government to do something, like they did in New Orleans in 2005. I saw bulldozers and backhoes at work in some places. The cleanup had already begun, as people started to pull their shattered lives back together. No welfare mentality in Iowa, like in New Orleans, where the dangers of that mindset were demonstrated so clearly for all to see, if they were looking. People in Iowa were helping themselves, not waiting on someone else to do everything. That's how you recover from a disaster. And that's why Cedar Rapids will be back on its feet again long before New Orleans ever is. Instead of pointing their fingers and blaming someone else, Iowans put the blame where it belongs, on Mother Nature, and are even now moving on.
One man, who was being interviewed on the radio, put it in perspective better than anyone I've heard in recent years. He totally frustrated the pinhead reporter, who was trying to stir up a controversy by pushing the guy to blame the government for his problems, the same way they did after Katrina. But the man was having none of that. He stated that nobody was forcing him and others to live so close to the river. They loved living near the river, and always would do so. Rivers flood sometimes, he told the reporter. That's the nature of a river. We'll rebuild and go on like we always have. Yes, indeed. To that I say, "Amen!!"
The Lord helps those that help themselves. There's no doubt in my mind that He's right there beside those flood victims right now.