CHAMPAIGN, Ill. –Nearly every year, areas of the Midwest are subjected to massive flooding. Sandbags are filled and stacked, FEMA arrives and there is a discussion of whether this is a 500-year flood, a 1,000-year flood, or just another flood typical of the summer season.
In his new book, “The 1,000-Year Flood: Destruction, Loss, Rescue and Redemption Along the Mississippi River” (Globe Pequot Press, 2010), Stephen J. Lyons, assistant to the chancellor for communications at the UI, looks at a town devastated and rebuilt – that will likely be rebuilt again when the next year’s waters rise – and puts into context the history of the region and the people who have lived there for generations.
“The Midwest flood of 2008 was the second ‘500-year’ flood to hit our region in just 15 years,” Lyons said. “Ground zero was Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where much of my family originates. Covering the fifth worst state disaster in the history of the United States along with a sub-text of exploring family roots seemed like a perfect project for me.”
Two of the hardest hit neighborhoods have personal connections for Lyons: Czech Village, the ethnic business district where his grandmother did all her shopping, and Time Check, the working class neighborhood where his grandfather worked in the city bus garage for 30 years.
“What surprised me was that I soon realized that I was also writing about the loss of an American neighborhood in America’s heartland,” Lyons said, “and the overnight disintegration of the familiar and the dependable. To walk through those empty and abandoned residential areas today is absolutely chilling.”
Lyons found the survivors’ stories to be riveting, inspirational and unforgettable. I was blessed with meeting people who let me into their lives and trusted me with their stories.”The book is essential for anyone who wants to understand flood recovery at the most human level.