June 2008


Two flags, one Marine Corps and one American, flew from Don King III’s porch during the flood that claimed the basement and first floors of his home. Until the flood receded, King, a Marine who served during the Vietnam era, used the flags as a landmark to find his home at 820 Eighth Ave. SW. He saw them as a sign of defiance, of strength in adversity. The water rose only high enough to graze their seams, King said.

Late last week, King noticed his Marine Corps flag was missing.

“How low can people get?” he asked. “Of all things, they stole my damn flag. It’s only worth $20, but it meant a lot to me … There are some real cretins out there.”

But King, 53, didn’t let it dampen his resolve. He’s still cleaning up, currently knocking out the drywall in his home. And he bought a new flag to fly.

We can clean up the messes left behind by the ferocious floodwaters of 2008, but how much cleaning will it take for our neighborhoods, our businesses — our selves — to be whole again? The devastation has wreaked havoc on thousands of residents’ hopes and dreams, irrevocably changing even the lives of many who were barely affected by the flood itself. There are more questions than answers:

— Now that the water is gone, police reports show burglaries and looting is on the rise in flooded areas. In the last two days, more than 10 burglaries were reported in affected areas of southeast and southwest Cedar Rapids, including at the Cigarette Outlet on First Avenue W and City Style Clothing downtown. Guess some peoples’ “Midwest spirit” is failing. What gives?

— Where are all of these displaced families going to live now? Some might want to move back into their homes eventually, but if the house needs to be demolished, who will build there again? Would they want to? And how much will rental rates increase for area homes and apartments to accomodate the crowds of displaced people looking for temporary housing? Will it eventually affect EVERYONE’S rent?

— Our downtown is completely decimated. Who will rebuild there? Who will move elsewhere, or not reopen at all? Where, oh where, will I get my yummy chicken shawarmas or pizza slices or coffee house sandwiches as conveniently as I did before? (That was halfway serious. I’m still dealing with using a Port-a-Potty most of the time, so, please, cut me some slack.)

— With the destruction of about 20 percent of Iowa’s corn crop this year, how will it affect the prices of the food we eat? Corn is in just about EVERYTHING, by the way. And will restricted rail travel in this area raise transportation costs, translating directly to increased cost to us? Will the prices ever go down?

Is there such a thing as “normal” here any more? Really? We are facing months of uncertainty. Here’s to wishing us all strength, wisdom and persistence in the rough times ahead.

Apparently firefighters, police officers and others who have had prolonged exposure to floodwaters in Cedar Rapids have developed skin rashes afterward on their hands and legs, Cedar Rapids police Lt. Kenneth Washburn told me Friday. They’re not sure what is causing them.

“There have got to be toxic chemicals in the water in some places,” he said. “It’s just not safe.”

Cedar Rapids police reported a woman had her purse stolen from her cart as she was loading groceries into her car Monday afternoon at the Wilson Ave. Hy-Vee. A woman in the passenger side of a car driving by simply leaned out the window and snatched it as it was sitting there. She didn’t even get out! The victim, 45-year-old Lynnice Wedewer of Cedar Rapids, apparently tried to stop them by grabbing onto the open window, but the man in the driver’s seat just kept moving.

Yesterday, Wedewer left this comment our story about the semi that crashed on I-380 yesterday.

On Monday at Wilson Avenue SW Hy Vee my purse was robbed and I was assaulted in front of my 10 year old daughter with autism after buying food from the store. 2 middle aged 1 male African American & 1 white female bigger build short hair. I am making public notice I have closed down my checks and cards. Stores beware, do not accept any checks or chrage cards for Lynnice Wedewer, USHE Sanctuary, or James Hartgrave. Do not accept a paypal mastercard or US Bank card for same. They are now closed. On Tuesday they bought gas at Caseys and may have used these accounts unlawfully in many other places. Convenience stores are an easy target for this team as they do not have to show ID’s we are asking you to help us alert the community to quickly shut them down. My family are asking if you have any info please call the police if you see them. We are asking if they are any witnesses to please contact the police. You just never expect it to be your family. Thank you for your help in stopping them from abusing our accounts.
Dr Rev Lynnice Wedewer, Ph.D

I was curious to see who this woman was, so I Googled her. Turns out she claims to have the mark of the Benjamin Tribe on her hand. Check out her web site here if you’re curious about the significance of this claim. She also apparently runs an online store that sells software to help you “unleash the power of your mind.”

Wow.

Jennifer Hemmingsen’s story in Sunday’s Gazette about young women not reporting sexual assaults resounded with me, and likely many more women who read it. I, for one, don’t blame them.

It’s not something I relish talking about, but I never made a police report about my experience with a former high school classmate. I absolutely won’t make it an issue, because he is the father of another woman’s beautiful baby and is linked to me in countless other ways. I have to live with my decision to give in to his intimidation for the rest of my life. He doesn’t. He got what he wanted and he’s out of my life.

At first I wasn’t going to say anything. But about a week afterward, I fell apart and told my boyfriend at the time about what happened. He immediately cussed me out and blamed me for letting him into my house to watch a movie. He refused to speak to me, and his friends called me when they were drunk and harrassed me. Why didn’t I call him so he could rescue me? Why didn’t I fight back? Why didn’t I kick the guy out? Honestly….I can’t tell you. I was scared. I was weak. I didn’t expect it. At all.

His conclusion was that I wanted it, and that I am no better than a *place your own epithet here*. Now I can’t even use the dirty four-letter word that describes what happened to me without choking up. So…there that is.

You might be afraid. You might be angry. You might hate yourself so much that your life turns into a downward spiral. Just remember — you are not alone.