Cerro Grande Fire Of 2000 And COVID-19 Pandemic In 2020 … Commonalities And Differences In Disaster

first_imgCerro Grande Fire taken in the morning of May 10, 2000. All of Los Alamos was evacuated the afternoon of May 10, 2000. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com Cerro Grande Fire viewed from Los Alamos County Golf Course May 7, 2000. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.com Craig Martin this year standing near one of the tree seedlings planted in 2000. Courtesy/Craig Martin  Topper Senior Katie Herrmann with her puppy Simon, 1, in front of their home on Kristi Lane with her Class of 2020 yard sign, given to every senior at Los Alamos High School as part of a month long schedule of activities to honor them. The governor ordered all the schools in New Mexico closed for the remainder of the academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic so LAPS and the community are finding ways to honor the graduates. Courtesy photo Children plant a tree seedling 20 years ago following the Cerro Grande Fire. Courtesy/Craig Martin. All wearing masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nurse Kim Temple welcomes New Beginnings Fellowship members Lanessa Auburgey and Moises Pinto as they deliver a meal recently to Los Alamos Medical Care Clinic staff. Courtesy/LAMCC Today we are in the midst of a pandemic of a novel corona virus (COVID-19: CO for corona Vi is for virus, D is for disease, 19 for the year it was discovered). This is a new infectious disease causing an acute respiratory syndrome for which there is no vaccine or immunity. Federal, state, and local responses have included cancellation and prohibitions of large-scale gatherings, closures of schools, and other educational institutions, and social distancing by staying home or working from home. All businesses except those deemed essential have been ordered to close. People have lost jobs and the stock market has fallen faster than ever before in history. Each day the number of infected people increases.The Cerro Grande Fire and COVID 19 were and are calamitous events that disrupted the functioning of our community and society. They caused human, material, economic or environmental losses that exceed our community’s or society’s ability to cope. Regardless of whether the disaster is local or worldwide there are similarities and differences. The Cerro Grande Fire was a local event. The new event, COVID-19 is a worldwide problem-a pandemic. Unlike the Cerro Grande Fire there was no evacuation, but there is sudden life disruption! Life as we knew it came to a screeching halt and everything changed. Again, we must learn to adapt and become resilient in the face of adversity.There is no “them-and-us” in the COVID-19 event. There is no opening of homes as a way of reaching out. We are confined to our homes. We are all dealing with all the same fear and anxiety as people hundreds and thousands of miles from us. I am struck by the saying “We are in this together”. No one who lives on planet earth is immune to this event. We ARE all one humanity. One of the major lessons expressed over and over at the time of the Cerro Grande Fire disaster and now the COVID-19 event is the value of family and friends. Over and over in the Cerro Grande fire interviews, people expressed this lesson. Tasks and times were less important than family and friends. The five P’s were most important in evacuation: people, pets, papers, photos, prescriptions. In the COVID-19 event we are reminded over and over of the value of the lives of those close to us, family, friends, teachers, colleagues, and acquaintances.  After the Cerro Grande Fire many people expressed gratitude to the firefighters and first responders. Today the power of gratitude is apparent in the ways we thank firefighters, EMTs, doctors, nurses, and the life of every loved one. We are grateful for all those we sometimes forget about: truck drivers, grocery store clerks, those who shelve food and items, and so many more. Disaster makes us aware of all we have and often forget to thank in our busyness.Thankfulness for the landscape that surrounds us, and its resilience is important. In nature we find beauty and hopefulness in times of despair. Taking walks, gardening, hiking, and bird watching all uplift weary spirits in a time of social distancing and being shut inside our homes. Sunshine helps the shattered spirit and enhances the immune system.Every day we must make a choice to stay home to stop the spread or gather for fun and companionship. We choose resilience and hope by rejecting that instinct to be with others. I am amazed at the creative ways we have found to connect with one another. At the time of the Cerro Grande Fire cell phones were the exception. But with cell phones and computers, connecting has become easier. At the time of the Cerro Grande, everyone scattered. My response was, “Will I ever see them again?” Today I can call or connect by computer and know that my friends and family are safe.A friend, Rosella Jardine, found one similarity between the event of the fire and COVID-19 was isolation. When we evacuated, we did not know where our friends and family went or if we would ever see them again. Now we have all sorts of ways to communicate, but we are still isolated in our homes. It is a twist! Either way we were and are isolated from each other. Interestingly, we often crave solitude and quiet, but once isolated we crave togetherness.After the Cerro Grande fire, FEMA experiences were sometimes lengthy and painful. With the pandemic, comes a stimulus package to help the unemployed, essential personnel, and others. There is already an indication that this too will be a painful process.At the time of the Cerro Grande fire, we saw Northern New Mexico and our community coming together. The Volunteer Task Force mobilized the community to help in restoration. Others helped people through the FEMA process or providing shelter for the displaced. People helped people and the environment. In our resilience, we are reaching out today in unique and different ways, using ingenuity in the COVID-19 crisis. Examples include a less vulnerable person asking a neighbor if they can go to the store for them or calling someone to find out how they are doing. Organizations where congregating is the norm are finding new ways of communicating and entertaining through computer programs such as Zoom, Facetime, Skype, and YouTubeAt the time of the Cerro Grande Fire there was great need. Scouts, churches, restaurants, and many others fed first responders. Homes were opened. People made quilts to give people comfort. Currently, I believe anyone who sews is probably making masks for family, friends, medical personnel, and neighbors. Making a mask seems insignificant but it may save someone’s life. Donations are given to those who are hungry and jobless. Today, though we may feel knocked down, hurting, and struggling, people are lifting each other up in their own way.Like the Cerro Grande Fire, we were not prepared for this pandemic. It took us by surprise. We are in the midst of this event and we do not know how it will end. The experience of the Cerro Grande Fire reminds us that out of the ashes of that fire we became more resilient and renewed. Out of the COVID-19 event, we will find resilience and be renewed in our relationships to one another. There is hope.This is part of the Afterword in the book Resilience and Renewal, Stories of the Cerro Grande Fire Twenty Years After. Also look for the new exhibit at the History Museum called Resilience and Recovery which is currently online (losalamoshistory.org/cerrogrande) and will be available in person when the museum is open again. See the Los Alamos Historical Society website for more information about the Cerro Grande Fire and the availability of the book. Cerro Grande Fire viewed from downtown Los Alamos Sunday, May 7, 2000. Photo by Gary Warren/ladailypost.comBy TERALENE FOXXLos AlamosThe week of May 4th is an anniversary week. Twenty years ago, the Cerro Grande Fire changed the physical and emotional landscape of the community. I had just breathed a sigh of relief that the interviews and writing of a book about the resilience after the Cerro Grande Fire was completed when a new event occurred. I had previously written stories about the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000 and 2010. My first thought was, “Not Again!” That is my usual response to a new event that has the shadows of an old event.last_img

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