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By Ryan Schuessler

The building is in a quaint neighborhood of what locals call the 500 zone — the area the city has designated as being at risk for a flood every five centuries or so. Taha Tawil had heard the warnings before, but even the historic floods of 1993 hadn’t touched the mosque.

This day in 2008 was different.

After a wet spring, the Cedar River crested at 31 feet, setting a dramatic new record. Fourteen percent of the city was flooded — including the Mother Mosque of America.

“We didn’t believe such tremendous, huge water would come,” Tawil, the mosque’s imam, said, slowly shaking his head.

Lost were the community’s oldest Qurans and prayer rugs their ancestors had brought from what was the Ottoman Empire, but what today is Lebanon and Syria. Diaries, poems, interviews, photos — “all (of) that was taken from us,” Tawil said. [Read more…]