Aug. 10, 2020, is a day I will never forget. A storm with winds comparable to an inland hurricane, called a derecho, blew through the corn belt and hit Iowa from west to east along U.S. Highway 30 at varying intensity, causing damage to homes, buildings, and crops.
There are many details that will stick with me, including watching a tree fall on my house and a limb coming through the ceiling and into my kitchen. But most of all, I will never forget how Iowans reacted in the aftermath of the storm.
While I have traveled outside of the state and country, I have never lived anywhere besides Iowa. A term I hear often when referring to our state’s kind-hearted nature is “Iowa nice.” After what I’ve seen in the weeks since the derecho, I wholeheartedly agree that is an appropriate term to describe Iowans—and even rural residents outside of Iowa.
I witnessed firsthand neighbors helping neighbors before worrying about damage to their own houses and property and sharing their generators and chainsaws after they flew off the shelves at all stores in the area just minutes after the storm passed.
While helping friends in eastern Iowa later that week, hours after we got our own farm cleaned up, I was struck by the overwhelming sense of community. This family lost their entire newly-finished shop with living quarters, grain bins, barns, and personal belongings. The family was one in a crowd of Iowans who faced a staggering loss of their homes, farms, animals, and vehicles. But, that didn’t stop the community from coming by to check on them. Neighbors and friends brought food and water, and lent their equipment and helping hands to assist with cleanup—even as they had their own properties to clean up.
Witnessing these hardworking people with a variety of backgrounds coming together to clean up after derecho showcased the skills and values that come with living in a rural area, especially on a farm. No matter your gender or physical ability, rural roots come with a hard work ethic and ability to use whatever tools and equipment are available for the almost impossible task of clean-up after any natural disaster, in this case a derecho. Looking forward, I am reassured that even in the face of a widespread and devastating storm, rural Iowans look out for one another.
While it is never good to go through a natural disaster, the experience is a whole lot better when you have a wonderful rural community to lean on afterwards. There is still a lot to do and we have quite the battle ahead with picking up trees, patching roofs, rebuilding homes and barns, harvesting crops, storing grain, and battling volunteer corn next year. But, after living through this storm, I am confident that rural Iowa will persevere.