When we were ringing in a new year and a new decade, none of us could have imagined that in a few short months we’d be celebrating Easter and observing Passover sequestered in our homes under a stay-home mandate. Pandemics were the stuff of movies or happened in countries far from our shores – not in America, and certainly not in Cortez, Colorado!
For my parents and grandparents, the Great Depression and World War II were defining events in their lives; for younger generations, the Pandemic of 2020 may well be their defining event. In fact, some have said that out of this worldwide event, another “greatest generation” will be born. It’s impossible to predict the ultimate cost in lives and the economic consequences resulting from the closure of businesses and stay-home mandates, but they are slated to be dire. Thousands have lost their jobs, and the long lines of cars at food banks reminds us of how many people now don’t have the resources to feed themselves and their families. The nightly news is heartbreaking.
But amid all the uncertainty and loss, there are numerous examples of people stepping up to help one another and the increasing realization that we are dependent upon one another in ways we may not have always realized – “We are all in this together” has become our mantra. With all the uncertainty we are facing and the resulting social disruptions, there has been no looting, no rioting in the streets, no spike in crime. Corporations are doing incredible things, from donating millions of dollars to food banks to seeking out caches of personal protective equipment and getting it to hospitals; retooling their factories to produce thousands of much-needed ventilators; and establishing funds to help small businesses weather the crisis.
On the home front, seamstresses have taken to their sewing machines to stitch thousands of masks for friends, neighbors, health care professionals and others who are providing essential services. Confined to our homes, we are reaching out to family and friends – in some cases ones we haven’t been in contact with for a while – to be sure they are safe and let them know we are thinking of them.
Our community has stepped up to be sure neighbors don’t go hungry. The food pantries and soup kitchens have ramped up to provide ever-increasing amounts of commodities and meals. The county has earmarked funds to help local businesses. Our hospital quickly developed a plan to deal with an influx of COVID-19 patients. It also was successful in raising $100,000 to purchase equipment to provide test results in hours rather than days.
Our school districts quickly made arrangements to provide sack breakfasts and lunches for students needing meals. Then they got busy figuring out how to continue teaching. A system is now in place to provide online classes, and teachers are reaching out to families to provide support. The city recently worked with school officials and a local internet provider to create a hot spot at the old high school site for students who don’t have internet at their homes. As parents are faced with the challenge of caring for and educating their children at home, our teachers are doing everything they can so students don’t miss out on a quarter of the school year.
We are living in challenging times, but others have faced challenges before us, endured and came out stronger. We will, too. As I heard somebody say the other day, ”You must have a storm in order to have a rainbow.” This storm will most surely produce one spectacular rainbow ... actually, it already has!
This is my final column as Cortez mayor. The opportunity to serve on City Council the past eight and a half years and as your mayor the past six has been an honor and a privilege. I’ve learned a lot, have met many wonderful people and have gained a deep appreciation for what it takes to run a city. Before serving on council, I was impressed with the city staff I met, and these past years have only reinforced that impression. When asked to speak about city business, I always finished with the observation that the city is in good hands, with staff who are fiscally responsible, dedicated to doing right by the community and always looking for ways to make Cortez a desirable, safe and pleasant place to live and raise a family. I have felt for a long time that Cortez is on the threshold of wonderful things. During my tenure, the council members I have served with have moved us forward and accomplished some important projects. I am confident that our new council will continue to work for the betterment of the city, and I am eager to see what their legacy will be. Thank you, Cortez, for the opportunity of a lifetime!
Karen Sheek has been the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by Cortez City Council members.