Where were you when the world changed forever?
Exactly one year ago today, I was sitting behind a laptop in my hotel room in Grapevine. I had visited with people that day at our Dallas-Ft Worth branch office and after a slew of meetings, I felt spent. I just wanted to relax and be ready to travel back to El Paso the next day.
I browsed the web a bit while waiting for some “highly anticipated” news conference scheduled for the afternoon, which would address this strange thing called the Coronavirus. No one knew what the fuss was about, and I was curious to see what the deal was.
Little did I know, the contents of that conference would change everything in 10 seconds flat.
We learned that day that COVID-19 was not just a fresh flavor of the flu, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a global pandemic. I didn’t know what to do with that information. I wondered about the word “pandemic“ and thought to myself, “what does that even mean?“
This may sound weird. But as an immigrant, while having learned a ton of words in the English language, “pandemic” wasn’t one I ever used or heard of. So I Googled it. As I read the definition, an intense feeling of loneliness came over me. All I wanted was to go home and be with my wife and kids and take it all in together. But I couldn’t. I was 620 miles away from home in a hotel room, alone.
I had never felt this way before; it was absolutely surreal.
After a few moments of gazing out the window, watching the planes land and take off like they did each day at DFW, I got a strange and sudden urge to take action. I remember calling Arleene and telling her to go straight to Costco and buy all the necessary supplies we may need to survive the coming months. The days following were absolute mayhem, empty shelves, toilet paper, and bleach shortages, along with panic and disbelief.
My gut told me that tomorrow, everything would change. I feared that every client would potentially need service of some kind to deal with the situation come the next morning. I felt a sense of anxiety, but we later learned that wasn’t the case, and it would take another 3 weeks for our clients to trickle in their requests to work from home.
That day, on March 11th, we decided to move out of the offices. I felt it necessary to get ahead of what was coming and am forever grateful to my team. They didn’t ask questions. They didn’t stumble or hesitate. Instead, they put their heads down, came together, and worked like the fantastic team they are.
The most critical employees came in that night, gathered the belongings they needed to perform their daily duties the next day, and together we coordinated the logistics. We transported desks, chairs, computers, monitors, phones, and what have you. It was the craziest thing I never thought I would ever have to do, and all this time, I wasn’t in El Paso to help. All I could do was write you a letter about what we were doing to prepare you. The rest, my team had to do without me.
During the meeting that night, my senior staff and I discussed the options. We went over our training and readiness practices, and we were put to the test like never before. I mean, we had seen power outages and flooded offices. Still, we had never seen an invisible enemy that forced us to think fast and creatively. It was like we knew the office was scheduled to burn down that evening and we took everything out; you can’t make this stuff up.
I can talk for hours about what else took place that night, but I think you can imagine it was incredible, and sleep was optional for most. I will forever remember the day the world changed into what it has become today. The following days were unbelievable, hectic, and surreal. But most of all, we learned and showed each other what we are capable of as a company and how resilient we can be if we sync our efforts.
We would learn soon enough how profound the decisions we made that night would be for so many of our clients and how lucky we were to have been on point and ready to serve those that needed help.
Contracts didn’t really matter; all that mattered was that we came together as a community in service to others, in whatever way, with whatever means, and just help. We would figure things out later, but really, we never did. And in the end, it didn’t matter anymore; we did what needed to be done.
The news of the virus didn’t really hit El Paso until about a week later. But we were strapped in, locked and loaded, ready for battle by that time.
As I reflect back, March 11, 2020 will be one of the proudest moments of my tenure at Makios. I am truly humbled by the efforts and the unconditional willingness my team continues to show in helping others.
So it goes without saying that our mantra will forever be: WAKE UP, KICK-ASS, BE KIND, REPEAT.