Friday, June 13, 2008

Moving Response from Local Pastor

The following was written by a dear friend of the Ndjerareou family. Erin Bird is the young adult pastor at New Covenant Bible Church in Cedar Rapids, I share his feeling of desolation & isolation from the rest of the world, and pride in my community.   Thank you Erin for your words & perspective.

"This morning the top headline feed on Google News was a New York Time's headline about the flood here in Cedar Rapids, so I clicked to see if anything had developed overnight. I was suddenly awake as I read the insulting New York Times article which almost seemed to mock the people and officials of Cedar Rapids, making it sound as if we had asked for this. Christopher Maag, the author, writes that we were cocky, thinking something like this would never happen. He even chides our forefathers for building our government buildings on an island in the river. Mr. Maag makes it appear we are like the godless people of Noah's time, laughing at the possibility of a catastrophic flood.

But what Mr. Maag barely points out is that the previous record, set twice, was 20 inches. The famous '93 flood didn't even break the 20 inch mark. How could anyone expect we'd break the record not by a couple feet, but by 12 feet? We are surpassing even a 500 year flood. How do you prepare for that? Yet Mr. Maag seems to think that we should have been ready for a 32 foot crest, and to not be ready for that huge of a flood is foolish. For Mr. Maag to paint the people of Cedar Rapids in this light under these conditions does nothing to encourage the people nor point out the resiliency and determination of this community. So let me give a more accurate picture.

Last night I was serving as a "chaplain" at the Red Cross shelter set up at Viola Gibson School. The people I talked with weren't in denial, they weren't feeling foolish, they weren't shaking their fists at God. They were taking this in stride - they weren't looking defeated. One 70-year-old man I talked with lost the home that he had grown up in since birth, and yet there were no tears. He knew that when he died someday, he wouldn't be able to take anything with him, and so his "stuff" wasn't worth worrying about. He just knew he'd have a lot of work awaiting him once he could return to the house. And he was fine with that.

Once the lights were turned out, I headed home. I had heard that they needed sandbaggers at the Edgewood well, so I planned to change clothes and head over to help. But as I was buying water at Wal-Mart, LeAnn called to let me know they no longer needed sandbaggers - so I headed home to stay. As I watched the continuing coverage on KCRG, I saw hundreds of volunteers helping sandbag around Mercy Hospital. They weren't quitting. Even as the flood waters continued to rise, shattering all predictions, the people of Cedar Rapids fought on.

This morning while calling people to recruit volunteers for today, I found out about people who were volunteering through the night yesterday. No one seemed to be thinking it was foolish to keep fighting on. No one is complaining about the water rationing. Even the civil servants of the city aren't complaining when they have to do extra work because of those who held out hope they could stay in their homes.

Perhaps Mr. Maag isn't really in Cedar Rapids. Perhaps he is merely receiving info from other sources (like this really bad article) and he's piecing it together, informing his writing with his perceived stereotype of Iowans. Because if he had spent just a little bit of time with the people I did last night and watched the efforts I saw on the news, I think his article would have a very different tone."  Erin Bird 

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