One hundred days later, on May 9, he was at a free-standing, drive-through, public COVID testing facility in Taylor, when he received a text that two county residents had passed away, bringing the number of CVD-19 victims to 19. “My thought at that moment was the next day was Mothers’ Day and one of those people was a mother and a grandmother. How horrible the day would be for her family.”
He says it also struck him that she was 107 years old, and had lived through the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression, both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Communism, and the moon landing. “Losing her memories is a loss to us all.”
Despite any person’s individual history, Judge Gravell says he feels an obligation to everyone who has lost a life to this sickness, and has committed to reach out personally to their families, as well as make a public statement about each. “When this started, I didn’t have any idea what that might mean, or how many there would be. I know—as I sit here today—we have not seen them all.”
THE SCARY ROOM
If you look at the collection of crisis management manuals in Williamson and other counties, you will find binders entitled TORNADO, FLOOD, and ACTIVE SHOOTER. In none of those libraries, until now, was there any guidance for PANDEMIC. Yet leaders across the county, state, and nation come under fire for nearly every decision they make, and the average citizen struggles to know who, or what, to believe. Still, more than 100 days in, there continue to be things left unsaid, which leads to some of those criticisms, but perhaps for good reason.
Judge Gravell and his pandemic team number just under 100 people. While it was often necessary to have many of them in the same room for response and preparation, there was also another room…in the back. In that room, only 12 team leaders were invited to discuss the most delicate of emergencies. “It started out as an executive meeting room,” Judge says, “but was soon renamed ‘The Scary Room.’ I heard things in that room you don’t want your children to hear. Things discussed in that room would take your breath away. Because of those things, we prepared for the absolute worst that could have happened, and it was a burden that became so very heavy.”
May 9 ended our first 100 days. I’ve waited a long time to tell this story.
Judge Bill Gravell