Gathering held in Green Square to mark progress after derecho

Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 10:19 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - On Saturday, hundreds of people filled Green Square in downtown Cedar Rapids to play games, paint their faces, and have a good time while celebrating the community’s strength to overcome the August 10 derecho.

“It was devastating,” Jennifer Graham, of Cedar Rapids, said. “It was unlike anything I had seen before.”

Graham lives in the southwest part of Cedar Rapids. She said the hardest part of that day last year was navigating the roads full of tree limbs to get her disabled daughter.

“I could hardly get to her,” Graham said. “I had to keep driving around to find ways to get her, to get to my nephew, it wasn’t good.”

Graham had to deal with her storm clean-up as well, something she said she couldn’t have done without the kindness of her neighbors and community.

“We’ve all come together over the last year,” Raymond Siddell, founder of Together We Achieve, the nonprofit that put on Saturday night’s event, said.

The organization that Siddell founded was a product of the storm; it helps to fill the needs of those impacted by the storm. While he said it was a time to celebrate the effort of the community coming together and make repairs and remove trees, there was still so much left to do.

“We know that people were going to have PTSD after the storm,” Siddell said. “We knew people would have to drain savings to clear trees or to cover damage that wasn’t covered by insurance.”

While hundreds shined a light on all the community was able to accomplish, Graham said the event was something that changed her life and the city forever.

“Grab life while you can,” Graham said. “You never know when it will be over.”

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