Neighborhood turns painful reminders of derecho into new works of art

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:38 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Dozens of people remembered the August 2020 derecho by taking broken pieces of trees and turning them into artwork on Tuesday evening.

“I saw the crack in the wood, and it looked like a tree,” Mariam Nawar, 18, said.

Nawar and her best friend, Iris Benjilany, were one of many creating a piece of art out of the aftermath of the storm. While the pieces of wood created a happy memory, the storm itself had lasting impacts.

“I get flashbacks and hope it doesn’t happen again,” Benjilany said. “It was scary to think of the recovery and the wind.”

That’s a feeling that Nawar shares.

“I don’t think I was honestly ready to go through that again,” said Nawar.

The storm didn’t damage their homes; they said the aftermath of what they helped neighbors and friends clean up was traumatic. Sylvia Brueckert, a city planner, said they weren’t alone and this was also a way to connect people with resources.

“Natural disasters have a mental health impact on people,” Brueckert said. “I’ve heard about them and experienced it myself.”

While many people continued to clean up what the derecho left behind, mentally and physically, these memorials were to remind people of the friends, families, and neighbors who came together in their time of need.

“Now that I think about the tree I painted, it makes me feel like a rebirth,” Nawar said. “A new tree coming out of this old one.”

The city event is one of four being held to bring people together to share their stories.

  • Thursday, August 19, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.: Reed Park, 618 7th Ave SW
  • Thursday, August 26, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.: Matthew 25 Mega Market, 437 G Ave NW
  • Monday, August 30, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: Noelridge Park Farmer’s Market, 4900 Council Street NE (Corner of Collins Road and Council St NE)

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