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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/18/08

Let Me Tell You about the Iowa River

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Message Margaret Bassett
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This is not the first time the State University of Iowa has had water, but it's surely the worst, and I'm in mourning. When I was a student during the first half of the 1940's, I thought of the river as riverbanking--or a cold walk to change classes from one side to the other during the winter. Riverbanking is code word for hanging out (better put, laying out) on the river bank with a designated other. On one side is the administrative/liberal arts section, including the Old Capitol from the time Iowa City was seat of state government. On the other side are the medical/athletic buildings. As time has passed and many new buildings have come about, there are crossovers such as a theater and an art building. The liberal arts side is in crowded downtown Iowa City.
To give historical perspective to floods, I sat transfixed in front of the Weather Channel's pictures of the 1993 flood which devastated towns and commerce up and down the Mississippi. But all harkens back to a flood in Iowa City while I was in college My roommate was photographer for the Daily Iowan and inveigled someone to take her up in a plane to get an aerial view. Damage was not as severe as 1993 and certainly not like 2008. The roommate, however, received reprecussions, both good and bad. Bad , because her father had died in a plane crash and her mother had strong thoughts about her taking the pictures. Good, because the resulting pictures were in her portfolio when she later set up her own business in Chicago's Congress Hotel.
When the first pictures came streaming in, my reaction was to say ANOTHER KATRINA. Not the political backstabbing good-job Brownie type, but the displacement of persons and depletion of resources. Just think of all that corn people were ready to burn in their tanks, and things get real. Forget about enough corn for steaks. Think food for people, and some for people globally. Think money. Think! How will we look at June when November comes?
Volunteers are needed. What for? Ask the people hurting. And look at the road atlas. This is not a case of a sudden drowning of a little spot on the map which happens to loom large in my personal nostalgia. Cedar Rapids, more widely known because of manufacturing and commerce, is only in little better shape. Des Moines, with a total shutdown of its water supply in 1993, had a little luck this time, but Cedar Rapids! No water. I remember so clearly taking a Venezuelan engineer, doing graduate work at SUI, to the water treatment plant in Cedar Rapids.
Well, it's no time to cry. But I feel I just have to ask all those folks who spent so much time in February, whether in person or by digital transmission, for HELP. It's as American as apple pie. Don't let the feel-good articles about a landmark building in Iowa City distract you from the fully national scope of a disaster. When the Mississippi River is drowning, we all pay the price.
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Margaret Bassett passed away August 21, 2011. She was a treasured member of the editorial team for four years.

Margaret Bassett--OEN editor--is an 89-year old, currently living in senior housing, with a lifelong interest in political philosophy. Bachelors from State University of Iowa (1944) and Masters from Roosevelt University (1975) help to unravel important requirements for modern communication. Early introduction to computer science (1966) trumps them. It's payback time. She's been "entitled" so long she hopes to find some good coming off the keyboard into the lives of those who come after her.
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