Iowa journalists get aid from colleagues who've been there...
When a natural disaster strikes, journalists can end up being part of the tale, both as storytellers and as victims.
When the Cedar River swamped Iowa's second-largest city, flooding 1,300 city blocks, it also threatened the offices of the town's daily paper -- and flooded out the homes of two dozen staffers of Gazette Communications in Cedar Rapids.
"The city was under water on my third day at work," said Steve Buttry, 53, the newly appointed editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. "I hadn't even moved in yet. The police wanted us to evacuate, but we convinced the city to let us stay."
Sometimes, only someone who's been there truly understands.
While the staff was slogging through contaminated waters, and the company's TV station found ways to keep broadcasting after the power went out, care packages from fellow journalists started showing up.
The Omaha World-Herald shipped boxes of crackers and snacks that could feed the staff when no other food was available. So did the San Diego Union-Tribune, whose staff covered the Southern California wildfires last fall. The Telegraph Herald of Dubuque, Iowa., sent a truck loaded with water, toilet paper and hand sanitizer -- even cots for those stranded at the paper or homeless because of the flood.
But one of the most treasured items came from a staff member from the New Orleans Times-Picayune who lost her home during Hurricane Katrina. She sent dozens of clean shirts with a hopeful mantra that kept her and her peers going during the rough days. The shirt read: Times-Picayune, we publish come hell and high water.
"It's a pay-forward kind of thing going on," Buttry said, "and we're grateful."
Helping Fido find his way home . . . .
As the Cedar River swamped the state's second-largest city in mid-June, Cedar Rapids police raced to evacuate the downtown animal shelter -- and reached out to Kirkwood Community College with a desperate plea for help.
The college has one of the country's leading agricultural sciences schools, and plenty of open spaces -- including two livestock arenas and dozens of classrooms devoted to teaching veterinary and animal health technology.
The staff rushed to turn equipment normally used to house cows and sheep into dog runs and cat crates. And as the water continued to rise, word among fleeing residents spread of the ad-hoc emergency shelter.
"I thought if we got an extra hundred animals, that would be a lot," said Anne Duffy, professor of veterinary technology and one of the people running the shelter. "But people kept coming and coming."
They arrived at dawn, at dusk, in the middle of the night, panicked, crying, saying they couldn't take their pets into the Red Cross Shelter up the road.
"What were we supposed to do?" Duffy asked. "Say, 'No, go sleep in your car'?"