Iowa native in Baltimore

Discussion in 'Talkback' started by Ortiz, Jun 27, 2008.

  1. Ortiz

    Ortiz New Member
    Michael Beatty: American spirit shines through tragedy

    Growing up on a farm in Iowa, the last thing I thought I would ever see is National Guard trucks traveling familiar roads, helicopters in the air, emergency vehicles in the baseball field parking lot where as a high school freshman we played a state championship and the downtown I cruised to meet girls now flooded.

    My trip home last week was not a typical vacation. We did not go to Disneyland or the beach to relax.

    Instead we experienced determination, support, concern for others, sadness and even despair. It made me appreciate even more how valuable our families are and truly appreciate how good we have it. I again understood the incredible fortitude and strength we have when called upon by tragedy.

    This starts with a storm-delay layover in Saint Louis with a continued flight to Omaha, Neb. I stayed in St. Louis rather than have my wife, Julie, drive from Sioux City, Iowa, to Omaha. The forecast was bad. It got worse.

    Ultimately the storms spawned tornados. One killed four Boy Scouts and injured scores. Their camp was just off the freeway Julie would have been on about the time it hit.

    Next morning as we drove by the campground, a billboard proclaimed “Prepare to Meet thy God.” Only two days before, 93 families sent sons to a character-building retreat not realizing what they would experience. Having a son and daughter, I thought: “What if that were us?”

    That same night, after the news of the tragedy spread, 500 men and women from Nebraska and Iowa stood in line braving rain to give blood to the injured boys. Governors of Iowa and Nebraska stood side by side supporting the families. Sadness for the families was relieved only by pride in citizens who rallied behind these families.

    Driving to my mom’s the next day was through flooding of biblical proportions from Omaha to Des Moines to Cedar Rapids. Radio tolled widespread road closings, thousands evacuated. I had flashbacks of living in Charleston, S.C., and our “Survived Hugo” spirit.

    I recalled stories Maryland residents told about Isabel swamping our state in 2003.

    Cedar Rapids was the same in trauma and spirit. All of downtown was submerged. Hundreds of homes had water above roofs. The gentle Cedar River I fished and swam as a kid hit a record of 32 feet, 12 feet over previous records. It raged now, destroying property and closing businesses in a vast area. Yet I also saw determination and caring.

    Volunteers from all over Iowa and America stood side by side sandbagging and helping clean up the best they could. Cedar Rapids lost 75 percent of its drinking water. So residents of a nearby community conserved enough to send to their sister city.

    It proves how lucky we are, how that can change in a moment and how, as Americans, we must take pride in our collective character even as we mourn our loss.

    Life will go on for the families affected. All touched by the spirit of residents who stepped up to help those they did not even know will carry that spirit forward.

    This reinforced my faith in fellow Americans. When others need help, a multitude always steps up without question.

    Michael Beatty is publisher of The Baltimore Examiner. Reach him at

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