Tusayan During Covid 19

The Town of Tusayan is a feeder town to Grand Canyon National Park. Tusayan is located just 2 miles from the South Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park South Rim, and it is where many visitors choose to stay during their visit, with numerous lodging, dining and shopping options. Visit the Tusayan Business Page for more information about available services.

Tusayan Arizona is a place unlike almost any other. A town of less than 1000 permanent residents, essentially hosting a year-round parade where millions of visitors pass through for a brief time, sample a natural wonder of the world, and move on. The constant influx of people from around the world created the sense of hustle and bustle normally associated with larger, more cosmopolitan areas. The number of languages being spoken, the variety of cultures intersecting, and the different ideas exchanged along the way made Tusayan a very intriguing place.

When Covid-19 reshuffled the deck for everyone, the community around Tusayan responded. It was both surprising and reassuring how quickly things happened. Though everyone was moving into unchartered territory, there was something familiar in the actions of the assembled community.

The visitors disappeared. It felt like a sudden emptiness had befallen Tusayan. The quiet eeriness of Highway 64 on a Saturday morning in April conjured too many images from too many science fiction movies to be real. Yet, a few Saturdays ago the only sound was the wind flapping the flags and an occasional fly causing a nuisance. Unless one listened carefully.

The sounds of redirected purpose can be heard in and around the Tusayan Fire Department and in the voices of every volunteer who reflexively moved with the flow of what they could not control, until arriving at the place where they could make a difference. Everyone offering selflessly, reaching out, trying to lend that helping hand in a manner so often associated with small town life. It is simply a truism and not a cliche – for it is far too important to be cliche – that trying times bring out the best in people. According to Keith Richards – and his memory is at least as good as a world leader’s memory – during the blitz in WWII London, the kids would run to air raid shelters during class or get under the desk. The point is, daily activity may look different, but it will go on.

The Tusayan Food Bank was a once a month operation, in conjunction with St. Mary’s Food Bank through a contract with Stilo, prior to this pandemic, and it sprang to life so rapidly to begin weekly services, it alleviated many immediate worries. Tusayan is a town totally hinged to the hospitality industry. In a time of uncertainty and fear, it was comforting to have some of that hospitality turned inward.

With unprecedented circumstances come new ideas and ever more concerted efforts to marginalize these circumstances. School children caught practically mid-year when the gears stopped turning were vulnerable on two fronts. The school lunch program – for some the most significant meal of their day – needed to be reconstructed and mobilized. Thanks to the unyielding effort of many volunteers it has been transitioned into a delivery lunch program, including weekend lunches previously not available.

The other issue was tougher. Home schooling has been around for years. So has jet piloting, but to make things fly one must be prepared. On this scale, or any online education programs hoping to achieve optimum results, proper equipment in the form of laptops, notebooks, and other devices along with unlimited internet access, must be available for everyone. Many residents of the Grand Canyon School District needed to upgrade their existing equipment, at a time when nearly everyone found themselves out of work. For the kids to matriculate close to schedule, time was of the essence.

To remedy the situation several local companies and organizations donated computers and assorted electronic accessories, including Chrome Books purchased by the town of Tusayan for students lacking equipment at home. These donations in an extreme time of need allowed for life, sideways as it is, to maintain some level of continuity for the kids, and not add education to the list of victims or opportunities the virus will take away.  Since remote learning requires an Internet Connection, the town of Tusayan arranged and paid for free internet to every resident in the town who didn’t currently have access.

The entire experience has been spiritually revitalizing. Observing behaviors, to which long ago the cynic said good-bye, reaffirms faith in this world that all is not lost, not even close. The quiet air breeds introspective mindfulness. The wind rushing through the trees soothes the soul like tires gripping pavement never will. Walk along, or into the Canyon now, and one can feel nature reprioritizing us. Maybe it is a good thing if things are never the same.

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