Meghan V. Malloy - The Daily Iowan
Issue date: 4/14/06 Section: Metro
Words can't describe the pain I felt when I walked up to the house last night. The roof was gone - glass was everywhere. Two cars were sitting in our front yard. The entire east side of the house is gone.
I thought it was bad enough to come outside Thursday night and find a tree on top of my car; bad enough my apartment's bedroom is a mess of broken glass, mud, and debris. But then I got the phone call from my best friend.
"Alpha Chi Omega is gone, Meghan. What are we going to do?"
Good question. It wasn't just a sorority house - it was our home.
The slew of tornados that descended upon Iowa City Thursday night had ripped off the roof and front of the century-old home, 828 E. Washington St., leaving a doll-house view of the structure's innards.
Once lodging 43 girls and home to approximately 120 Alpha Chi Omega members, the former UI president's mansion is slated to be bulldozed, along with our possessions and memories. But much more important than the bricks and mortar are the times we spent on our infamous decks, the late nights of watching "One Tree Hill," and Monday chapter meetings. It was a wonderful home and I'm afraid I took it for granted sometimes.
When I chose Alpha Chi Omega during a hot August week a few years ago, I didn't join to be associated with the richest girls, the prettiest girls, or the smartest girls. I chose it because it felt like a home.
It was where we ate dinner together, and stayed up in the sleeping rooms telling stupid jokes and gossiping all night. We studied there. We sat in our living room and watched back-to-back seasons of "Sex And The City" until 4 a.m.
We were initiated there.
I lived in the majestic house for two years of my college career, and while my sisters and I had the occasional fight, the rooms and kitchen played host to my most treasured memories of college.
I met my best friends in that house. It was where we shared many laughs and tears. It was a safe place where everyone was welcome, whether they were a part of our sorority or not. I live in an apartment this year, but I couldn't help but visit my friends at the sorority house at least three times a week. The memories of being on your own in an apartment off-campus are nothing like the ones you spend with your Greek house.
And standing in front of the sorority Friday morning, side by side with my fellow sisters, I tried my best to console the freshmen as well as my older friends and former roommates.
"It'll be OK. We'll be fixed up in no time," I told the girls as I hugged them, even though I didn't even believe myself.
"It's like a dollhouse," said one of our sorority neighbors who came to bring us pitchers of water. "You can see inside your rooms."
Another girl surveying the damage with us gave me a hug and said, "It's not the building that was home, it's the girls that lived in it."
I don't know who that girl is, but thank you for reminding me of something that seemed to be as broken as the place 120 women consider a home, even if they don't live in the physical structure.
And it got me thinking about what a home is. I have an apartment which holds my possessions - most of which were not severely damaged beyond repair - and a house in Des Moines where my mother and father live.
But my home was where my heart was, and that place was in Alpha Chi Omega with my sisters.
Clothing, computers, and i-Pods can be replaced and the girls will be spending the rest of the school year in the former Phi Gamma Delta house. But it's just not going to be the same.
But as long as the women of Alpha Chi Omega are still on campus, we will remain a strong sorority. We were the foundations that made that house a home.
And we're not going anywhere.
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