Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ok, so Cedar Rapids... The picture below was the house we worked on most of the week. That house is almost 4 blocks from the river and the water was still over 6 feet high. Inside the house, at least 15 feet high, there was a bar of soap stuck to the first floor ceiling. (15 feet because there was a porch that was at least 3 feet higher than ground level which was at the same height as the first floor). The water was that high. The woman who lived there, Linda, had just put in brand new flooring and other improvements. She had just started remodelling her bathroom. She was 2 years from retirement. And we threw out almost all of her possessions. The trash pile in front? Take that times 15 and it might be close to how much of her house we removed. When we left, there were studs, outside walls and bare minimun floors. No insulation, no siding, no wiring, no plumbing.

We arrived over 40 days after the flood. The house had not been touched. Everything she owned was molding or rotted or dissolved into a liquid... There was very little that could be saved. We tore out drywall and insulation to find mold growing all the way to the ceiling. we tore out the first 2 layers of ceiling. We pulled out her new floorboards and subflooring. We ripped out her stove, her washer, her water heater, everything. We mucked out feet of standing water. We hauled out her clothes, her papers, her canned food, her furniture. Almost everything she owned, gone.

I didn't write about it sooner because it's a tender subject. Some people talked about how they wanted to go remodel their homes now. But as we destroyed walls and tore up floors and ripped out fixtures, I thought about what it would feel like if this was my house. What if I had to rip out the drywall in my bedroom? Would I be able to pull down my lilac walls and rip out the insulation and rip up the carpets and take out everything I ever owned the throw it away? There is no way I could do that. I feel so sorry for her and bad that we couldn't do more for her, but I'm glad we could do that much. At least she didn't have to do it herself.

I'm going back next week. As faculty/staff, I no longer get a fall break, but by taking a service trip, I get a day out of the office. We're leaving friday and coming back Monday. So I will be working all weekend, but I'm glad I can give this tiny bit to help another person. When we arrived, Linda was tryig to figure out what to do. She was living in a trailer, thinking she would have to try to sell her house, after, of course, paying to have it fixed up to livable standards and her possessions removed. After a week of free labor, when we left, she had a little more hope. She was thinking of coming back. Her kids were figting over who got to buy her trailer. If that isn't worth giving up a weekend, what is?

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