A Personal Look Back at the Flood of 2008

Aerial view of downtown Cedar Rapids on Friday, June 13, 2008

Aerial view of downtown Cedar Rapids on Friday, June 13, 2008

Well, it’s been a year now. One year is always the first major measure of time after something good or something bad. In this case it’s something bad, the flood of 2008. As a producer at KCRG-TV 9, downtown Cedar Rapids in all its misery became my home for several days.

The events surrounding the flood on a personal level are about as unimaginably varied as you can think. I look back on my time covering the flood with a lot of hindsight. I think about how I felt and what I saw, but now I do it knowing full well what happened.

Then, we were quite literally in the dark here downtown. When everyone else was forced out and told to leave, we stayed. What I saw with my own eyes, in places not reached by others at the time, are things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

When I was interviewed for KCRG’s Epic Surge DVD, I said that it was hard to watch it wherever it happens, but harder to watch it with your own eyes. That still rings true today.

Gazette front page on Friday, June 13, 2008

Gazette front page on Friday, June 13, 2008

We’ve all seen floods, natural disasters and catastrophes of all shapes and sizes on TV. What happened in June 2008 in Cedar Rapids was all that rolled into one. A level of flooding no expert would ever predict. People can say they called it, but no one, NO ONE saw that much water coming through Cedar Rapids.

The memories that will stick out for me most are, of course, the negatives. But there are some positives in there as well. I remember the helplessness everyone in front and behind the camera felt on Thursday, June 12, 2008. The day before the crest, heavy rain just kept falling and falling on the area, making a catastrophic situation even worse. Shooting the rapidly rising water along First Avenue that day at one point I was afraid I would get stuck downtown as the water surrounded me.

I will also remember when Ashley Hinson and I traveled to Viola Gibson Elementary to shoot a story on the main flood shelter. Seeing people, tired, confused and not sure what their next step would be let alone when they would be able to go home. We were as far from the flooding as you could get, but you could see the impact of it right before your eyes.

Another memory I will always take with me is the image of evacuating our downtown studios twice, literally operating the entire broadcast out of a live van at the water’s edge. It was the only thing we could do to keep the station operating while generators were failing.

KCRG-TV 9's Bruce Aune and Beth Malicki broadcast from the water's edge after evacuating the downtown studio

KCRG-TV 9's Bruce Aune and Beth Malicki broadcast from the water's edge after evacuating the downtown studio

That brings me to the positive I will always remember; the amazing work by my colleagues at KCRG-TV 9. I have never seen a collaborative effort when all of us were so unsure of what would happen next. With everything around us dark, unable to see anything outside our building and knowing the water was coming, we stayed. It was a night I think KCRG-TV 9 could easily say was its “finest hour.”  The people I shared the newsroom with that week I will never forget, whether they are here now or not.

I remember telling someone in the days after the flood, that Cedar Rapids was my home. If there was any thought in my head about moving somewhere else, I couldn’t do that now. Do I still feel that way one year later? Absolutely. This is the place I’ve called home for ten years. This community is a part of me and although it’s suffering and will take years to wipe away the impact of this flood, I want to be here to help.

To those of you not from Cedar Rapids, or not familiar with this town, I urge all of you to come here, see the good and the bad left in the wake of the flood. See what a lot of work and perseverance has led to in this town’s recovery. There is a lot of work left to do and there’s simply no easy way to do it. I pray lessons are learned and relationships grow out of this disaster. Someday I want to look back on it and see more positives than good, but that day hasn’t arrived yet.

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