CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A low-key commemoration of Iowa’s 2020 derecho will take place to mark the two-year anniversary of the devastating windstorm.
A Resiliency Day is planned for Aug. 10, 2022, organized on Facebook by Tamara Marcus and Eric Gutschmidt.
“Two years ago our lives were upended during the derecho,” the Facebook event notes. “It happened in the middle of a pandemic and only a few months after the social upheaval following Gorge Floyd’s death. At the time we did what we always do in the face of overwhelming adversity and we handed together and rebuilt our city again. But we never gave ourselves time to grieve or process the trauma of it all. Somehow since we were all going through it together we all gritted our teeth and powered through it.”
Rather than a large-scale gathering, Resiliency Day calls for taking the time to heal emotionally and to reflect.
Sustained straightline winds of 70 miles per hour (mph) lasted nearly an hour over a large swath of central and eastern Iowa, with wind gusts of 110 to 140 mph in portions of five counties during the Aug. 10, 2020 derecho, which downed power lines and trees, tore roofs off of buildings and toppled tombstones in cemeteries.
Some homeowners are still rebuilding and tree plantings will take years to restore even a portion of the more than 7 million trees estimated to be lost in Iowa from that single day, including about 75 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids alone.
The strongest estimated wind speeds in the vicinity of Cedar Rapids were among the highest wind speeds ever recorded during a derecho, peaking at about 140 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Resiliency Day calls for individual action on the derecho’s anniversary.
“We can each do this in our own ways,” the event post notes. “Some may grill out or plant a tree, others may go over and say hello to their neighbor, and some may just take some time to breathe.”
In that spirit, I’m growing a bit of hope at home.
In early August 2020, I harvested a few small black cherry tomatoes from our Mound View Community Garden. The tomato vines were heavy with more to soon ripen, but the garden, like many other places in Cedar Rapids, was decimated just days later.
I tried to save what few seeds I could from the unusual variety of tomatoes, and planted them last year. None survived. With just a small number of seeds left this spring, I tried again. As sometimes happens, all of the tomato seedlings wilted and died.
Now down to just three seeds, I gave it one last shot and replanted under the grow-lights.
This time, one of the tomato plants appeared to survive, but I wasn’t sure if it was the black cherry tomatoes that held promise two years ago in the community garden until this month, when I saw the tiny tomatoes begin to turn their signature color.
When so much was lost in the derecho — most tragically, three Iowans who lost their lives in the storm — watching the growth of this tomato plant seems insignificant, but then, after such great losses, sometimes we come to realize that it’s the little things in life that count.