For two weeks in June 2008, heavy rains and widespread flooding pummeled the Midwest. The nation's worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina, the floodwaters decimated downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, causing an estimated five billion dollars in damage and displacing over 2,000 people. The waters of the Cedar River crested at 31.2 feet, the highest in the town's 168-year history. The flood ripped buildings from their foundations, tumbling and twisting homes and offices.
My husband and I watched all of this on the news. "Look," said my husband pointing to the television. "It's the library." Only one floor of the two-story concrete building was showing above the water. The white walls reflected against the dark water. I remembered how I had just returned some books there only the day before; I started crying.
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The flood ruined our town. Our home was lucky enough to be spared damage, but the marketing company where I worked was destroyed. Six months after the flood, I helped hang a banner declaring that the company was back in newly remodeled offices. The next day, I was laid off. Several more layoffs followed. The waters had receded, but the effects of the flood were still being felt. The flood caused approximately 7,000 job losses. In a city of 126,000 that loss hurts, and that was before the full brunt of the recession hit. Read: Money Saving Tips
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As a couple, my husband and I volunteered—gutting and cleaning homes and businesses until I got sick with migraines and nausea. The doctor chalked my illness up to allergies and tensions from the flood. The stress took a toll. I yelled at my husband when I thought he'd violated the water ban (we could only use water in our house on the odd calendar days). He rolled his eyes when I cried in front of the news. We stopped going out to eat; our favorite restaurants had been filled with water. The effects of the disaster were wearing on us, and we hadn't even lost our home.
On June 9, 2008 Linda, 65, and Max, 62, were evacuated from their home where they had lived for 30 years. "We didn't think it would be too bad. Maybe just the basement would have water," says Max.