December 16, 2020

English Professor feels MMU community support during derecho clean-up

Dr. Joy Ochs felt the support from the MMU community after the derecho put her family into survival mode.

MMU: Your home was severely damaged in the derecho—what happened?

JO: Where there used to be a continuous canopy of tree cover, there was empty sky. Every door to our house was blocked with fallen trees. We had to crawl out. It took almost three full days of the neighbors working together to clear our road. Without electricity, we didn’t have running water; cell towers had been destroyed, so no one had a reliable phone signal. It was a few days of just raw survival mode.

Where there used to be a continuous canopy of tree cover, there was empty sky. Every door to our house was blocked with fallen trees. We had to crawl out.

Dr. Joy Ochs
Professor of English

MMU: How did your MMU colleagues help you during this time?

JO: Dennis Dew was the first to check on us and bring needed supplies. Chris DeVault loaned me his chainsaw, which was the only tool I had for two weeks. Neil Bernstein and his wife took us under their wing; we ended every day at their house, where they fed us supper and provided hot showers while our power was out.

ochs-joy.jpgJennie Schmidt organized a clean-up day where 15 colleagues showed up with chainsaws, rakes, and big smiles. Students sent encouraging messages and even offered to come over and help! I felt truly embraced by my community.

MMU: How did you prep for courses while still dealing with the effects of the derecho?

JO: I had to do as much emotional prep work as anything else: how to welcome and connect with students who were themselves dealing with COVID-19 and derecho stress. Whether in-person or online, MMU’s hallmark is our connection with students. If every other thing went wrong, it was still important to me to do that one thing well.

Whether in-person or online, MMU’s hallmark is our connection with students. If every other thing went wrong, it was still important to me to do that one thing well.

Dr. Joy Ochs
Professor of English

But with no cell signal or WiFi at home, it was impossible to get my course materials online. It was the same situation for my husband, who teaches at Kirkwood. Tim Laurent gave us the key to his Graduate Center office—the sole reason we were able get ready for class on time. And, we might also have had the first Kirkwood course ever to be broadcast from an MMU building!

MMU: Any final thoughts on this experience?

JO: After two floods and a derecho, Cedar Rapidians have become my role models for building community resilience.