Now that they’ve survived the flood of 2008, many in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa area are looking for ways to tell their story to future generations.
The Carl and Mary Koehler History Center and area libraries are among groups examining how best to preserve memories of a record flood that displaced more than 5,000 families and damaged more than 1,000 businesses in Cedar Rapids alone.
Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said it is important to collect information while the memories are fresh. He said that it will benefit everyone if people can look at the floods years from now and get an accurate idea of what happened.
He saud the flood could stand out from other events in Cedar Rapids history, such as the 1905 Quaker fire or the 1919 Douglas Starch Works explosion, which have relatively poor historic records.
Cedar Rapids resident Connie Dighton said she wanted to tell her story, which began when she was 9-years-old, living city’s northwestern neighborhood.
“The buildings and the lawn, everything was destroyed,” she said. “We had two hours before we had to get stuff out of the basement. … Then they shut all of our power off … and told us we had less than an hour to get the rest of our household stuff out. It was pretty bad.”
Brad Wilson, 55, of Springville, said he tried to sandbag desperately to save one of the Cedar Rapids wells.
“I was living in Des Moines in ’93, so I had some experience with what could happen in a big flood,” he said. “As the waters were rising, I traveled to Coggon in northern Linn County. … I saw the massive flash flooding that was heading toward Cedar Rapids.
“When I got back home, I decided to volunteer to sandbag.”
Stories from throughout Linn County will be collected by The History Center in a project called Capturing History Alive.
Coe College is working with the center to gather about 100 oral histories from the flood, which will incude video and possibly audio to archive in its library.
“Researchers 20 years from now can listen to it and know what life was like in those neighborhoods before the floods and what it was like to experience the floods of 2008,” project coordinator Beth Miller said.
The stories of Dighton and Wilson were recorded as part of a project called CR (See Our) Good Story.
Steve Groner of Marion, owner of Information Security Education, started the self-funded effort with Guaranty Bank’s Robert Becker. They have asked libraries to provide recording sites.
The non-profit StoryCorps could also record some stories in Cedar Rapids. StoryCorps is involved in an effort with University of Iowa Libraries in Iowa City called Under the Current: Collecting Stories from the Flood.
Kristi Bontrager, library public relations coordinator, said the interviews of 72 people will be done Sept. 30 to Oct. 11 at the UI Main Library and Iowa City and Coralville libraries.
Interviews will cut into three-minute stories and archived at the UI libraries and the Library of Congress. Some might be played on National Public Radio.