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Will Not Go Quietly Into the Night

Joyce Godwin Grubbs (

By Joyce Godwin Grubbs

December 12, 2009 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cable Muse Network) -- On the ground and listening to the stories of Cedar Rapids victims Cable Muse correspondent Joyce Godwin Grubbs reports devastating losses from the floods and tornadoes of 2008 the wounds of are deep and open for many Cedar Rapids residents.  

Cedar Rapids ( Beverly Ajai Dittmar
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The now infamous line, “We will not go quietly into the night” from the movie “Independence Day” characterizes the determination of the Cedar Rapids flood victims who met with Cable Muse Network following a public forum organized by Mayor-elect Ron Corbett. Self-appointed advocates of the remaining flood victims were comprised of both victims in FEMA trailers, and victims who had found housing. Some flood victims had returned to their homes that were rehabbed just enough to get them “back in the door”. There was concern that there has been a concerted effort by the city to “outlast the victims” and in some cases present them as “whiners” and “greedy”. In turn, frustration of the victims had brought out verbal missiles lobed at the city officials such as; “economic cleansing”, “homegrown carpetbaggers”, “white Katrina” and “Westbank politics” (a reference to the victims on the west side of the “construction line” declared by the city).

Cedar Rapids ( Beverly Ajai Dittmar

This tired and beleaguered group of survivors, no longer trusts that media and newly interested parties, who say they have the victims’ best interests at heart. Never the less, they forged on with their stories. The human stories involved hundreds of hours of research, learning the law as it pertains to their rights, and attempts to prove or debunk various conspiracy theories and get honest and relevant answers.

Cedar Rapids ( Linda Seger

Diane Wicher’s story appeared to touch Mayor-elect Ron Corbett and Peter Teahen, facilitator of the December 3rd meeting. Teahen pointed out that Ms. Wharton’s testimony at the meeting was most gratifying because few people will share the emotional trauma and toll of a flood in an open forum. Ms. Wicher testified she now suffers from agoraphobia and OCD. It manifests it’s self in particular when it rains. She spoke of pacing endlessly from window to window to check the level of the water. She is now sent into panic mode when she sees puddles, and now has to be medicated to leave her home. She stated in a follow up interview with Cable Muse Network (CMN), the need to drive to a relative’s home who is dying of cancer. She went through the intricate ritual of preparing to leave her house and be confined in an automobile. The difficulty is being away from her house at any time, but when the weather is wet or threatening, it is almost impossible. Peter Teahen, a veteran of more than 45 disasters including major international events while working within the American Red Cross, says testimonies like Ms. Wicher are, “ too rare and there are many more that go unheard because people are unwilling to speak about the mental health ramifications”.

FEMA Response (

Linda Seger, an outspoken and respectful critic of the city’s flood recovery efforts spoke with CMN in a meeting held on December 4th after the open forum at the IBEW hall with Mayor Corbett. In this smaller venue with unrestricted time limits, one of the issues discussed was concerning the discriminatory “construction zone” that prevents 554 properties from rebuilding, selling, renting and getting volunteer assistance. They are not eligible for federal (state) Jumpstart money. The victims say they were being told the line was purportedly drawn on the instruction of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Ms. Seger reports her conversations as well as the conversations of other victims she advocates for, found the Corp indicated they did not mandate the construction line, nor did they feel the city was responsive to their warnings about the potential of the flood and its predicted impact. 1270 citizens are restricted under this construction line, and Ms. Seger furnished Cable Muse with a document from the city which was mailed on 12/11.08. The point being made was the “construction Zone” was only accepted by the council the night before the mailing. In part, the information stated: “Plans for this area will not be finalized until the Us Army Corp of Engineers completes its feasibility study in 12 to 24 months and construction begins in five to 15 years. There is no money to acquire these properties at this time but the City is searching for resources to assist these property owners.” This left Ms. Seger who had already reinvested in her property because the city gave her the building permits, in limbo; unable to sell or, rent. She and her husband now in their sixties raised six children in their home of thirty years. Through rebuilding help from family they can once again use their 100 year old home as a center for their family and their fifteen grandchildren.

In commentary to CableMuse Ms. Seger wrote: “I am fighting for the rights of the people of Cedar Rapids. We are Americans and we deserve our 14th Amendment Rights denied to us by our city government through their ignorance of what can and cannot be taken from Americans during times of disaster. We are not disposable people. The citizens along the river bank are the sons and daughters of immigrants, veterans, laborers, pioneers, native Americans, slaves, and indentured servants. We are diversity. We are American. Please help us get the justice we deserve”.

Mayor-elect Ron Corbett (
Mayor-elect Ron Corbett

Twelve hours after the public meeting with Cedar Rapids flood victims, Cable Muse Network (CMN) sat down with the Mayor-elect Ron Corbett, the organizer of that public forum, to ask his thoughts about the response of the victims. His words were passionate as he spoke of people who had lost their homes and in most cases, all that they had. He declared, “They were not being heard. They were talking but then being told what to do to fit in the process. I believe if you are elected to office, you signed on for the people and the problems. These people have concerns and problems that are real. We are talking about their homes. Their lives are in those homes. Of course, they are going to be emotional and hurt. They no longer believe anyone cares or will listen. Trust is now a big issue between the city and the victims”. In the hours since the meeting he had already drafted a plan to work with State Senator Rob Hogg to get the Iowa Legislature to approve legislation which will create stiff penalties for vandalism and crimes on flood victim properties. This is in response to recent fires allegedly attributed to meth labs and occupation illegally by drug addicts and pushers in abandoned buildings in the flood plain. He also will instruct the city to resume additional trash and refuse services to flood victim properties as they are still paying taxes for those services and trying to clean up their properties; it’s only a start.

The Mayor-elect who made flood recovery a priority issue in his campaign, called his first meeting with flood victims since his election so each victim would have time to recount his current concerns. Scheduled as a two-hour meeting, it went four hours without breaks. The mayor-elect left as the building lights were being shut off and no constituents remained. During the meeting, in a poignant moment after hearing many flood stories; he walked to the tripod tablet and wrote his name, address, personal email and cell phone number for all the attending public to have access too. He told the audience that he might not be able to solve everything, but he would be working toward it. If he only helped with eighty out of a hundred, they would know he had done his best; he had listened and he heard. He will again, in January after he is sworn in.

Application for help ( Cedar Rapids
With limited resources many victim applications for help were handwritten

Cable Muse was aware of dozens of stories that needed to be told in-depth after hearing the testimonies. A 87 year old woman complying with regulations which presented copies of her receipts and was told they weren’t legible. She returned with the originals and was told she couldn’t use them as they weren’t legible either. Now she may pay-off her debt when she is “117 years old. Then there was the woman whose son brought his construction crew from Alabama only to be told he couldn’t help his mother and a police car sat in front of the house to insure they did not work. It remained until her son and his crew packed up and returned to Alabama. The site of a large, impassioned city worker who was harassed about the two flood damaged cars on his property telling his story and struggling to remain calm. He told how he had to stay on duty after the flood for days and later suffered a heart attack. Each story was not for sensationalism, but was a piece to the puzzle of why these disasters take so much recovery time and what are the “universal” problems in common with other like disasters.

In an email response to this article Mayor-elect Ron Corbett wrote, “As we head into a second winter without closure many flood victims are losing hope. We need to provide legal support for the flood victims as the buy-out process begins. I will (be) sending out to those that attended the meeting the list of issue that need to be addressed. The next meeting will be schedule for early January (2010)”.

Cable Muse Network LLC has made a commitment to be “the voice” of those who have become unheard in this unprecedented effort by victims of America’s fourth largest natural disaster. With nineteen months and counting, there are stories and abuses that still need to be told. You can share and read them here, on

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