And we wait…

This moment, as I type this, an eerie feeling flows through my hometown. For days we have been preparing for a flood that could potential destroy our city, again. And while we’ve prepared for days and watched a city unite in their neighborly efforts to support each other, we now just hold our breath and wait.

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To readers not from the area, in 2008, a flood wiped out downtown Cedar Rapids, historic neighborhoods and surrounding communities. At the time, I was 40 weeks pregnant and living in Chicago, devouring the glorious restaurants and landscape, unable to fully realize the damage occurring. But three years later, I moved back “home” and to a new landscape in Cedar Rapids where entrepreneurs were not only embraced but held up, where the young professionals were being recruited to replant, and where the buzz of rebuilding was palpable. In this transition, I never expected to fall in love with my hometown again and feel so invested in the new businesses, neighborhoods, and culture they were building. And now eight years later, we are waiting to see what this next flood brings and leaves behind.

In 2011, I questioned what I was doing to transplant my passions from the big city, to a much smaller town. A food blog I had started seemed like something that could easily disappear, but with every new person I met, and restaurant I visited in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, there remained a few constants- food brings people together, and everyone is hungry for a unique moment and place where they can build memories. I found myself in conversations with strangers about places to check out, restaurant and family histories, traditional recipes featured on menus, or hidden destinations. So I kept writing.
But for the last few days, I’ve had a lump in my throat. It’s not anxiety about the damage, but about the rebuilding. My fear is that business owners will chose not to rebuild, that they will abandon the core of our city. That places like Chappy’s Safari Lounge, alongside Cobble Hill, will decide the risk is too high. Because these are just a few places that make our city what it is. Restaurants like Village Meat Market, Cobble Hill, Need pizza, and Lion Bridge Brewery boast owners and chefs that moved back here and added tremendous value to the food scene, making Cedar Rapids more worldly than just a small town in Iowa. Tornado’s, Chappy’s, and Lil Bo’s are community staples that have been visited by generations of patrons. Black Sheep Social Club and Popoli’s restored and revealed history in a beautiful setting while serving top notch food. And there’s so many more. These neighborhoods, stores, restaurants, coffee shops, associations, patrons and visitors have worked their ass off to make this hometown something to #IowaBrag about.
So, like much of the community that surrounds me, I’m going to put a thick layer of hope and dedication on top of the threat I feel. And then I’ll do my part. After clean up and recovery, it may just come in the form of eating, writing, and sharing. But if that means you visit a local staple with friends, or commit to a progressive five course chef collaboration, then it’s a win. It’s a win because that means we care, and the community can feel that, and then maybe if/when this happens again, there will be no question about building it bigger and better the next time.
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