16 April 2006

Items of significance when considered in the grand scheme of things.

First, I make no claim to have the audacity to render significant what I believe to be significant to the masses: if this were the case, George W. Bush would not be the "President," Iraq would not be a quagmire, the Kansas City Royals would not be the worst team in baseball (again), officials from Conference-USA would never work a bowl game involving a team from the Big Ten, and bars the don't have Sam Adams on tap would have to pay a tax to me. Few events in my life have significance beyond myself, which accounts for both my great happiness and depression; the events of a few days ago, however, are significant to me, and I hope by extension to you.

A tornado (not a cyclone, as I have described in a roundabout, wholly infantile manner here), struck Iowa City on Thursday evening. Damage reports could be around 12 million dollars in structural costs, alone. A church was completely distroyed (as was one of the Dairy Queen franchises). A sorority house was ripped to pieces, exposing the inside for all the outside to see. Hundred-year-old trees were uprooted and tossed around; the College Green Park was turned into a twisted mass of lumber as the funnel tread across it, on its way to a more residential area. Three downtown bars suffered extensive damage, and the apartments above the bars became a brick depositories. Some students looted a liquor store that was extremely hard hit (wrong, but funny). Others took cash from the register at a pizza place that was 95% destroyed (wrong and not at all funny). The campus itself was largely untouched.

My apartment, on South Johnson Street, was untouched. The lawn and parking lots were littered with debris, mostly insulation, sticks, and shingles, but no damage was done. Three and half blocks away, a one-hundred-year old Catholic church is in ruins, and on Friday morning cars were found upside-down in bushes.

When the storm hit, I was alone in my apartment. The sirens went off the first time, and, as I watched the reports on TV, the warning was for an area of southern Johnson County--Iowa City is in northern Johnson County. As a result, I basically ignored the warning. Next, a heard the rapid smacking of hail on the aluminum overhang of my building. I went downstairs to watch the hail, which started no larger than pea-sized, and ended around shooter marble-sized. I went outside as the rain started to come down, hoping to watch the storm intensify (for those of you who aren't as familiar with my likes, violent thunderstorms are near the top of my list of "cool things"). The sirens went off again around the time that the power went out in the building. I was still outside, but ventured back in, hearing some people say that a tornado was spotted near Wal*Mart (bastards) not far from my apartment. Beer in hand, I went back outside.

From my vantage point behind my apartment, the lightning was non-stop. The hail continued, now approaching its largest size. The rain also intensified, but the wind went from basically strong to tremendously strong. About that time, I started back toward the side door. At the step by the door, I saw another long set of lightning flashes, and in its glare, I saw debris flying in the air, not far away. It was at that point that the three of us who were still outside, shall I say, scurried into the downstairs hallway, where the others in building had gathered. We sat in the basement, using the lights from the LCDs of cell phones to illuminate the quarters. For over half an hour, we waited there. When we emerged later, my neighborhood was fine; my town was not.

Attempting to call out on cell phones became next to impossible. The circuits were jammed, and slowly we started hearing reports of damage downtown. Disregarding the dangers of downed power lines, broken glass, nails, gnarled, twisted metal, and jagged 2x4s, I walked downtown to survey the damage. From the pictures I took the next day, you can see that when the tornado went, it caused a lot of damage. Realizing that but for four blocks, my fate could have been different is quite humbling. Watching my home be pieced back together by its transient residents is inspiring. The repair of Iowa City will take a lot of money, time, and hard work, but the determination is already apparent.


Post a Comment

<< Home