Flood Volunteers Save Manuscripts

The most important task facing the flood-and-tornado-ravaged Midwest right now is of course to look after the humans and animals affected by the disasters. But there are other things worth rescuing, too. Of all the stories in this vein, the one I found most moving was a report today on National Public Radio about the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The university’s library was, on its lower levels, suffering from rising waters of the Iowa River. So the librarians put out the call to town and gown for volunteers — and hundreds of people showed up! The volunteers formed human chains up and down the library steps, and passed valuable books and manuscripts to an upper floor, where they would be relatively protected. This moving story put me in mind of a similar rescue process that happened in Florence, Italy, during the 1966 flood of the Arno River, captured beautifully in that Italian masterpiece of a movie, “The Best of Youth.” To rescue books: to rescue civilization.

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