The Taos News - Taos Woman
the history of disasters and emergency situations, we’ve witnessed humans – rather than fracture from a situation – grow stronger.
During the California wildfires, the floods in Texas or the aftermath of Sept. 11, it is unlikely that First Responders, neighbors and volunteers helping save lives, stopped to ask those they were helping who they voted for in the last election or what their religion is or where they were born.
In times of strife, the things we often allow to divide and limit us are suddenly not as important as being safe, having food and shelter, and taking care of one another. In some ways, disastrous situations make way for opportunities to not only respond to an emergency, but to also strengthen ties.
In early March 2020, when Gov. Lujan Grisham began to inform her constituents that every community needed to prepare for what was likely to become a deadly and pervasive pandemic, a small group of community leaders came together for an initial meeting.
Like most Americans, Taos Community Foundation Director Lisa O’brien, Holy Cross Emergency Manager David Elliot, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative Business & Organization Development Manager Erin Sanborn, KCEC Chief Executive Officer Luís Reyes, and Town of Taos Marketing Tourism Director Karina Armijo had no idea what to expect. Yet with disaster looming, all agreed there was no time for lengthy participant searches, mission statements or weighing agenda items.
Within a matter of days, the group went from the seeming innocence of pre-pandemic life to an ‘All hands on deck!’ mindset to prepare and protect the community for the unwelcome arrival of COVID-19. Within days, the Enchanted Circle Community Organization Active in
Disasters (COAD) was formed with the goal to put the community first and solve unmet needs.
The initial meeting quickly expanded into a weekly COAD consortium of a growing number of committed community leaders, public service employees and passionate volunteers. But this wasn’t like most community, town or government groups showing up with individual or organizational agendas to do their part (and only their part). Agendas and biases were checked at the virtual door as the group, effectively led by everyone and no one, emerged with a collective sense of cohesion, compassion and support for their community.
As is often the case during disasters and times of strife, humility held a large seat at the COAD table. With uncertainty being the only sure thing, the group discussed ways to identify and solve the unmet needs of their community. Meanwhile, in the background, along with the rest of us, the lives of the members were being disrupted in unprecedented ways.
Children were at home trying to do remote schoolwork and adapt to the new rules of isolation and social distancing, elderly family members were frightened and confused, even family pets had to adjust to the new routine of everyone being at home.
Stores were shuttered, lines were long, layoffs common and stress was high – the dedicated COAD members were not immune to some of the very problems they were trying to solve. Each member brought their knowledge, resources and strengths – and as they discovered, one of those strengths was the ability to be vulnerable.
Perhaps it is due to the presence of vulnerability that the COAD has been able to achieve new levels of success, communication and collaboration in a short amount of time. It can be impossible to hide or sugarcoat the challenges of a pandemic when the dog is barking, a child is crying, a spouse or partner walks into the room frustrated, or the sounds of broken glass can be heard hitting the tile floor in the background.