Reflection on a difficult year


The end of 2020 is in sight, and not a moment too soon. This was a year filled with memories and also a year filled with questions such as “can we ever get through this?”

The new year started off like any typical turn of a decade. Then, by the time February rolled around, news of a virus originating in China began circulating. Not many took it serious because it was thousands of miles away from the US.

However, in March, the virus hit the United States and the country began to feel the effects of what a pandemic can do.

Adding insult to injury, a devastating tornado hit Madill on April 22, 2020. Two people died as a result from the tornado and quite a bit of damage hit two of our major manufacturers, struck the rectory of the Catholic Church, and destroyed a subdivision just North of Wal Mart. If the tornado would have went on the Southside of the street, there is no telling how many injuries or even deaths could have happened with the storm.

However, the resilience of the public servants, both paid and volunteer, shined the brightest when times were difficult. With the spotlight being displayed on Marshall County, the determination of rebounding from tragedy did not keep the spirits of its citizens down or depressed.

Even facing the aftereffects of a devastating natural disaster, residents still found it in their hearts to give. A special radio fundraiser on the Saturday after the tornado helped raise over $10,000 in just six hours. The need reached outside of the parameters of Marshall County because donations came from all over the country; not just here in Marshall County. By the time all of the donations came in, approximately $14,000 was raised for the area.

Due to shutdowns and the need for social distancing, distance learning became the new buzzword in every school setting. Parents, and school staff were forced to quickly prepare students to do their schoolwork from home. The question lingered on whether or not that this would be the new norm for education. Nine months later and the question is still up for debate.

By the time that school was nearing the end of the term, school officials were trying to figure out on whether or not graduation ceremonies could be held or not.

Not wanting to rob the students of having a proper graduation, both Madill and Kingston leaders made sure that their students would never forget the difficult year that they experienced by celebrating the students.

Superintendents Brian Brister of Kingston and Larry Case of Madill, along with other school administration leaders, shined when working with the Oklahoma Department of Education officials on figuring out alternatives for educating its students and planning for the 2021 school year.

Monies from the C.A.R.E.S. Act allowed the districts to employ Wi-Fi hotspots on buses, in strategic locations in each of the districts along with internet being provided from additional hotspots provided by Verizon and other internet providers. This allowed students who did not have home internet to still have the ability to sign online and do homework.

Then, as summer approached, questions of whether outside events would be held as normal or not were on everybody’s minds. Early on, events were postponed, and people wondered whether the county’s beloved National Sand Bass Festival would be held. The committee was determined to make every effort to hold the event. Initially, the committee made the tough decision to postpone it from June to August.

The pandemic showed no signs of slowing, and time was fast approaching to make a decision on whether or not to postpone or cancel this year’s festivities. With guidance from the City of Madill leaders communicating with leaders of the committee, they eventually made the well-informed decision to postpone it for the first time ever. It was a tough decision, and an economic impact on the area, but the right decision.

The pandemic was still hitting hard, and nobody was immune to the shutdown. The privilege of being able to worship with one another was quickly halted. Some church congregations had to come up with alternatives on how to get the teachings and interpretations of the Bible to the parishioners.

Some churches were already delivering a Facebook LIVE feed of their services and most continue to this day. Additionally, some churches were able to secure a live broadcast on the local radio stations. As with many older churchgoers, they do not have internet capabilities.

With the pandemic hindering many residents’ normal everyday lives, many were left grieving one of their own. One of the joys from within the community passed away from the virus.

Martin Santos Garcia was Marshall County’s first victim to pass away from the virus. Garcia was the face many experienced as they entered the Asian Palace restaurant on South First Street. A voice that was silenced abruptly. Always quick to make sure that the customer’s dining experience was the best and pleasant, every time they visited.

Restaurants and other businesses had to make adjustments on how they served their customers. It was not the easiest task for the small business owners, but something that was collectively overcame by providing services not typically performed, such as curb side ordering.

With the new school year approaching, the question then loomed on whether or not school would start on time or be delayed. Most districts around the region offered one of three options; in school, remote learning or a blended approach of both types. Only a few interruptions have put school on a strict remote learning approach since the school year began.

One other event was postponed well ahead of its scheduled time, was the Fill The Sleigh event on the square in downtown Madill. Officials from HOPE from Marshall County made the decision to cancel the annual event and just hold a donation only event at an area retailer, collecting toys and money, that stayed within Marshall County and used to help families.

The event is one of the largest events that helps ensure children are able to have a joyful holiday season filled with presents and helps with food for struggling families and seniors getting necessary items to help when family are not able to help with their needs.

Once again, the pandemic did not hinder the organizations that collect items for needy families. Another way HFMC helped families in Marshall County was a food distribution. HFMC, along with First United Bank, teamed up to bring the Midwest Food Bank to Marshall County and distribute food in an event called Farm to Family. The first distribution took place beside the Marshall County Health Department building and had vehicles in line for nearly a mile long. The event was such a huge success, that organizers decided to move it to William Ray Park for easier and a much safer access for all concerned.

Santa’s Elves is another longtime event and has been making a difference for nearly thirty years, had around 250 families getting much needed love of food over the holidays. Most of the food was donations from various businesses, individuals and organizations that stayed right here in Marshall County.

A hefty ham, potatoes, vegetables and everything to make a complete meal for the holidays was given to each family. Over thirty volunteers from various walks of life participated in the two-day event.

Now, as a tumultuous 2020 begins to wrap up, many look forward to healing, prosperity, and the possibility of being able to experience life as once lived it prior to 2020.

But, also while learning how to be more creative and the ability to adapt to change.