We've been working to put together a piece each week for our ongoing series "Other America." We'd already shot a story for this week when the floods hit, but my senior producer, Katie Boyle, suggested that we go to look for a story from the flood zone.
In "Other America," we've been telling the stories of hard-working Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. We've been seeing that a number of factors can throw someone into financial hardship. Sometimes it is the high cost of groceries and gasoline – or it can be unexpected medical costs that tip the balance. We thought that this week we should tell the stories of folks who've been thrown off their game by natural disaster.
My producer Linda Karas (who has been working with me on these stories) and I set out in search of a compelling story. Linda is great. She's been at CBS News for some time and she has a good eye for a story. We talked with a number of agencies offering assistance to people in the flood areas around Iowa but ultimately, it was the executive director of the Northeast Iowa Food Bank who put us in touch with Bruce Recker and Gina Rebitz in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Bruce and Gina were sleeping at a Red Cross shelter along with Gina's two daughters. Their story is heartbreaking. They've been dealt a tough blow by Mother Nature not just once … but twice. In the last month they've seen one home destroyed by a tornado and the next by a flood. In between those two disasters they'd spent almost all of their savings and now are left with nothing. "It's like we're starting over again. It's just you keep going… keep stepping forward and you gotta make do with what you've got I guess," Bruce said.
In our first chat together Bruce and Gina both cried – it's obvious that these disasters have pushed them to the emotional edge. "I've never been put in a situation like this - I really don't know what to do," Bruce said.
We, as journalists, have the great luxury of driving in, meeting folks, sharing their stories and then going back to our lives, homes and families. It's incredible to imagine what these people are going through. What do you do? Where do you go? How do you find the energy to rebuild – in Bruce and Gina's case – to rebuild … again?