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Journalist Documents Albuquerque’s Emergency Response to COVID-19, Protests, and Political Unrest of 2020

New book by Joline Gutierrez Krueger launches with event at the KiMo

October 12, 2022 - Joline Gutierrez Krueger, a confident veteran journalist of thirty-plus years, was tasked back in early 2021 with a writing assignment she wasn’t exactly sure how to tackle: writing a book.

“Everything was daunting about starting the project. I had never written a book before and the deadline was not a lot of time to research and write a book while still writing my twice-weekly column for the Journal. But I am a creature who lives on deadlines, so I dug in, writing and researching from sun-up to sundown, seven days a week,” explains Krueger. 

Krueger proceeded to write a book in under nine months. The result is City at the Crossroads, a 230-page nonfiction account of the year 2020 in Albuquerque. The author covers the city’s response to emergency management in an unprecedented time. Krueger documents the many shifts city government took, from implementing remote work arrangements for hundreds of employees to deploying employees from posts-on-pause to help run COVID-related programs and responses like COVID wellness hotels and aid distribution. The book details how the Emergency Operations Center and all other departments of city government worked together to provide continuous city-run operations—with no job furloughs—during the pandemic.

Social unrest is front-and-center in the book. After the murder of George Floyd, Albuquerque and most other major cities saw a rise in Black Lives Matter actions, compounding the protests already happening nationwide around controversial statues. Here in Albuquerque, that unrest manifested with the removal of the controversial Don Juan de Oñate statue in Old Town.

Krueger interviewed dozens of city officials, including Mayor Keller, CAO Sarita Nair, COO Lawrence Rael, and department directors to get first-hand accounts of governance during the pandemic. She also interviewed Albuquerque business owners and nonprofits that helped with emergency responses to give a rich view of Albuquerque in 2020 from multiple angles.

“Organizing the themes into chapters was a lengthy process; the story did not always lend itself to chronology,” explains Krueger. “So, I set about going through every single salient headline to form my timeline. I found that COVID-19 and how it was tackled in Albuquerque and the country, in general, was through a series of fits and starts and missteps, all while the numbers of cases and deaths rose then plateaued and then skyrocketed. What also emerged was a thread that I wanted to run through the entire book, and that was the route that also runs through the entire city and its history—Route 66. Through the historical and cultural stories of this Mother Road, I was able to tell the story of this city and the history it was writing in 2020. Once I had my thread and my timeline, themes came rather naturally.”

In addition to Krueger’s reporting, the book includes introductions written by First Lady Elizabeth Kistin Keller and Mayor Tim Keller, afterwords from then-CAO, Sarita Nair, Arts & Culture director, Dr. Shelle Sanchez; and creative writings from the Lost + Found pandemic art exhibit. The book contains more than 100 color images, historic photographs, an index, and COVID-19 public health orders. City at the Crossroads is available from online retailers and independent bookstores. City at the Crossroads is co-published by the One Albuquerque Fund and the City of Albuquerque Department of Arts & Culture. Proceeds from all sales benefit the One Albuquerque Fund.

“Even though the book is about events two, nearly three, years ago, I still think all those people whose stories I tell are worth knowing no matter how many years go by,” Krueger says. “The year 2020 will always be a significant one, and I am thrilled that people will have the chance to look back and reflect on this remarkable time. I also hope they learn something about that time that they didn’t know. I think they will be proud of how this city pulled through.”

“During 2020, I felt more tragedy, more pain, and more anxiety than ever before, but I was also more driven, more focused, and oddly more energized than ever before. 2020 transformed at least a generation in Albuquerque, and it transformed me,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Fortunately, this book will offer generations to come an at-the-time chronicleof a dozen or so Albuquerque residents, or Burqueños, during a year that is undeniably one of the hardest our city has faced in its 312-year history.” 

A book launch and panel discussion will take place at the KiMo Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). After opening remarks from Mayor Keller, Krueger will be joined by local leaders for a panel discussion followed by a book signing. Tickets are $7 per person and includes a signed paperback copy of the book. $5 per ticket goes to the One Albuquerque Fund. Tickets can be purchased here or at https://abqtickets.com/.

The goal of the One Albuquerque Fund is to connect the community, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to come together to support the people in our community. The Board of the One Albuquerque Fund is proud to stand in support of current efforts to directly confront our challenges with proven solutions. The One Albuquerque Fund is a completely nonpartisan organization, where we focus on allocating resources directly to organizations that help address ABQ’s key initiatives.