Updated: Jul 28, 2021
It has been 10 days since my community was decimated by a once in a life time Derecho. With winds of over 120 miles an hour that hovered over Marion, I watched as over 90% of the homes were damaged and 50% of the trees are gone. There are no words to describe the pain and suffering that is now going on in my community. Marion is a small sleeper suburb of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the second largest community in Iowa. To our south where the University of Iowa is and my birthplace is Iowa City, that also had damage. But nothing compares to CR and Marion.
40,000 people are still with out electricity 10 days later and 2,000 homes and apartment buildings are uninhabitable.
I have had the blessing of being able to stay with family in Iowa City as my home was without power for 8 days. I was able to sleep in a bed, watch the news and take a shower. Things that a few days earlier, I had so taken for granted.
I had only moved in to Marion a few months ago. After my husbands sudden death last October, I knew I needed a change. The irony is I had not yet met my neighbors as when I moved, it was in the middle of the pandemic and lock down. We waved from across the street, and although it felt strange, I was heartened that they were taking this pandemic as seriously as I was.
But then the Derecho hit. As I opened my door after the all clear, I was met with a vision I had only seen in the movies. Every tree on my street was leveled. The force of the wind had knocked off parts of roofs and luckily no-one on my street had structural damage to their homes. Two streets over they were not so lucky. We all came out of our homes even thought it was still raining to make sure everyone was okay. ” Are you okay? Yes, I am okay, how about you?” We all kept our distance, some had on masks, some did not. It was all so surreal.
The area I live in is mostly inhabited by people like myself, semi retirement to retirement age. We have seen and lived through a lot. None of us though had any reference point for this experience. Cedar Rapids has had its share of pain. In 2008 we had a 1000 year flood that destroyed most of the downtown and the Czech and New Bohemian area. An older section of CR, that had row houses from the 30’s and the charm and history of another era. Much was destroyed, but then we rebuilt.
But this was something different.
As I watched as people began to come out of their homes to reclaim their lives, all that I could see was the pain and utter despair of what had just happened. The human spirit is an amazing thing. And I have always said, Iowans have this ability as we are only three generations from the farm of saying.” The barn burned down to the ground, let’s get together and build it back up. That is who we are, that is what we do. ”
But there is something very different now. Normally we would hug each other. Normally we would cry and allow each other the space to feel that touch and care that comes with a hug. Normally we would show each other the love and support that come from the unspoken touch that says I care, you are not alone.
I have missed hugs. It is one of the things I have been so aware of after loosing my husband less than a year ago. We are huggers, I am a hugger. And I so miss hugs. But now more than ever. I wanted so to hug my new neighbor and say I am so sorry this happened. I want to hug my God daughter who lost her home and say “what can I do to help?” I want to hug her precious six year old daughter who I held right after she was born and say” it will be okay, I know this is scary,” as she looks for her favorite stuffed toy in the rubble that is now her kitchen .
Hugs are something this pandemic has stolen from us. It is a way we connect with our fellow beings. It is the way we say without language, I have your back, I am here for you, I love you and you will be okay.
So when this is over, which it will be, I will be the most ferocious hugger around. I hope you will join me, because we have a hug devastate in this country right now. And that human touch, that energetic connection that says I am here for you, is missing. So we feel alone, we feel isolated and we feel less safe. As the saying in the picture above says so well, ” for that moment, everything feels so calm and safe , like nothing can hurt you”.
We will survive the year of 2020. We will learn and grow, change and adjust. That is what we do to survive. But I want us to do more than that, I want us to thrive. To know we can come through it all and be more courageous, and kind, be wiser and more compassionate towards ourselves and each other. And above all when in doubt..HUG!!!