Joline Gutierrez Krueger, a confident veteran journalist of 30-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 Tim 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,” she explained. “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.”
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. It was 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 said. “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.”
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A book launch and panel discussion was originally scheduled to take place at the KiMo Theatre on Oct. 26.
On Oct. 24. the Observer received this notice: Due to scheduling conflicts with participants, the City at the Crossroads book launch and panel discussion at the KiMo Theatre on Oct. 26 is going to be rescheduled. City at the Crossroads documents Albuquerque’s emergency response to COVID-19, protests, and political unrest of 2020. 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.
Those who have already purchased tickets to Wednesday’s event can expect a refund. A future date for the book launch has yet to be determined, but for those interested, City at the Crossroads can be purchased now from online retailers and independent bookstores.