One Year Later: Alpha Chi Omega Sorority

By: Steve Nicoles, Reporter

IOWA CITY - One year ago Friday, devastating tornadoes struck in Johnson and Jones counties. One of them cut right through downtown Iowa City, damaging or destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. It is possible none of the destruction had a bigger emotional impact than the loss of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house.

828 Washington Avenue is nothing more than a muddy lawn and a driveway. But this corner lot looks a lot better today than it did after the tornado ripped off the side wall. And Friday the Alpha Chi Omega sorority announced its plans to rebuild.

A simple photo op: shoveling the symbolic first mounds of dirt for a new building. Companies like to invite the media to ground breaking ceremonies like this to promote their expanded services. The Alpha Chi Omega sorority is breaking ground on a new life. Sorority president Liz Silagi said, "It's been challenging for all of us, emotionally trying after what happened."

A tornado took off the entire side wall of the Alpha Chi Omega building. The storm damaged plenty of houses, but about 50 college students called this one home. It has been a trying year for the sorority. From moving into a frat house, to tearing down their destroyed house, to building a new house. Alpha Chi Omega member Niki Branit said, "It's sad to have an anniversary of a destruction of something you love so much, but it's an amazing thing to have this new beginning at the same time. It's really exciting."

The new beginning is a new building. The first University of Iowa Greek house built in 40 years. It will be state of the art with an elevator and parking ramp while still meeting historic preservation requirements.

The house will be nice. And it is a symbol for the hard work the sorority has gone through, but the sisters will tell you, it is still just a house. Alpha Chi Omega member Tricia Abernathy said, "It's not necessarily the place you live in, it's the girls you live with."

The girls have stuck by one another through this whole ordeal. They say they are closer than ever before, and they are ready to start new lives in a new building.

Here are some dates the women will keep in their minds. Construction should start in the middle of May. They will move in furniture July 2008. And the girls hope to move themselves into the new house in August 2008.

Email Steve Nicoles at Steve.Nicoles@kcrg.com
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