Monday, June 14, 2010

Still battling

It’s raining this morning. It rained yesterday – and Saturday – and Thursday. Just like it did two years ago. There’s one major difference. In 2008, by the time it stopped raining the Cedar River had risen enough to do hundreds of millions of dollars of damage and displace thousands of our friends and neighbors.

If you hear the names Andrew or Ike or Katrina images of devastation come to mind. Floods don’t get the same response. If they weren’t effected directly, many people tend to forget. Some even actually start to resent flood victims over time. And when national “commentator”, Glen Beck, calls one of our flood recovery projects a “big waste of tax money” on television – I can’t contain my anger.

My young friend, Terrance, whose family lost everything in the flood (including all of his wrestling memorabilia) has been living at the Iowa Braille School the last year and a half. The rest of his family is still in temporary housing. Many business owners have given up or relocated. We’re still millions of dollars and many years away from a full recovery.

So what does this have to do with wrestling? Well – we’re still fighting to get off our backs – and wrestling has been helping.

Coe College wrestler, Clayton Rush – himself a flood victim – helped replace some of Terrance’s wrestling memorabilia. I guess that’s why it was extra special for me to watch Clayton win an NCAA Division III title.

Taylor School was nearly destroyed by the flood – in fact it was initially announced that the school would not reopen. The neighborhood rose up and fought to save its school and students returned last September. Through the generosity of dozens of members of the national wrestling community over 30 families from Taylor got to attend a session of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships. Another 20 or more flood victim kids from other schools also got to go.

The Division III Championships were held in Cedar Rapids from 2007 – 2010 and many of us have come to love DIII fans. Their simple acts of attending the tournament and staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants and shopping at our stores have furthered the recovery. But above and beyond that I’ve heard of acts of generosity from fans while they were here.

“DIIIs” are moving to La Crosse next year and I wish them all the success in the world. Here in Cedar Rapids we’re looking forward to welcoming a new group of wrestling fans as we host the 2011 NAIA Championships next March. This is my first official invitation to all of you wrestling fans to come to our fair city, enjoy our hospitality and watch some exciting wrestling. I ask just one thing – when that hotel bartender serves you or a store clerk hands you your change – please remember that it’s possible that in 2008 she and her family lost everything.