Back about a week after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, I began to realize that the leak was truly out of control and there was no end in sight for stopping it.
I'm a former Louisiana resident and have resided on the coast of Mississippi since 1987. I began to worry about how this would impact all of us then. I thought about the men who died on that rig first and it struck me that they were scarcely mentioned in the news reports. None of us even knew their names...why didn't they mention their names?
I began to volunteer wherever I found information in the newspaper. That was the only medium where I found anything.
Then I signed up for the Deepwater Horizon Response online...and volunteered there. I was told they would contact me when I was needed....to date...nothing!
I travel the 3 blocks to the beach almost daily. I've asked uniform workers where I might volunteer, they "don't know anything". I have aquaintences that have gone to work for BP for "paid" clean-up. They went to a week of training, then heard nothing for weeks. Then were called to come in but they clocked in and sat and then were sent home...with a full days pay!....still weeks went by. Now they are called to go out on a boat to "check the booms". Well, so far, everything seems okey dokey and they pretty much go for a boat ride to the barrier islands each day. They've even taken steaks, set up a grill and threw a bbq and went swimming in the Gulf waters! I've heard from them in the early afternoon sitting in a beachside lounge having a few beers....while yet getting paid a full days pay.
I won't go into the anger this makes me feel.
On three occassions, one I distinctly remember as being Memorial Day, I was on the beach and discovered dead turtles, dolphin and numerous fish.
As soon as I approached the dead dolphin, two young men approached me and asked me what I thought I was doing photographing a dead dolphin. I could only reply with the truth, "I'm documenting this tragedy, I'm a lifelong resident and it means something to me!"
They wanted to know if I worked for the press and I assured them "no". One then commented to the other, "I guess she can keep the photos then, huh". I took that to mean they might have comfiscated my chip or digital camera or both!
I walked on further down the beach and found two sea turtles that were still alive! I looked around and the only other person I could see on the entire beach had on a yellow vest. I hollared for help. He came rather slowly and I began telling him that we needed to get ahold of whoever was in charge of helping the turtles whether it was wildlife and fisheries or whoever. He said very sternly, "don't touch them miss, they might be carrying disease". I yelped back at him, "what, no, they've come in contact with the oil or dispursants, they're still alive, we have to help them!". He said he couldn't leave his post and I was not allowed to touch them. He said he would report the dead turtles. I reminded him very loudly that THEY ARE STILL ALIVE! He then thought I would feel better by reassuring me that they would necropsy them and determine if it was the oil or something else, but there was nothing either he nor I could do.
Shamefully, I was so stunned that I simply began to cry and walked in a daze back to my car. I came home and sat and blankly stared at the computer screen, not knowing what to say or do. Not having a clue who would care, who would listen.
I began to create a slideshow of the animals in peril put to music. I've made 4 so far and am working on more. I guess you could say it's my way of mourning what is going on here around me. It's the death of the Gulf of Mexico, of a way of life, of so very much life such as the endangered pelicans, the sea gulls, the gannets, the already endangered turtles, the dolphins, the crabs, the oysters, the shrimp, and....soon the people. It's the end of trying to rebuild and "renew" our coast from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Some areas were actually beginning to look somewhat "normal" after she came through now 5 years ago. After a hurricane you can rebuild...you can reanimate a city by building anew. How do you rebuild an ecosystem??? How do you recreate life? How do you mourn for something that man is responsible for selfishly destroying?
I think I speak for all the "little people" as one BP creep so aptly described us when I say that we are all broken hearted. Whether we are oil workers, fishermen, or just coast residents who settled here for all the beauty we feel so blessed to have. It's like a beach vacation every day that we wake up and see the beautiful white sand beach so full of life... the dolphin swimming, the gulls chirping overhead, the children building sand castles or flying a kite, the sportsmen launching their boats for a relaxing day of fishing to bring home a nice meal for their families. We watch the shrimp and oyster boats launch early in the morning for their catches and we normally see the boats lit up at night on the horizon with the moonlight shining brightly on the water.
We have been very blessed that until today, there were only a few dead turtles, dolphin, fish and birds washing ashore and the tar balls have been here although sparsely for the last few weeks. Today we learned that the thick oil is on the barrier islands and entering the sound. Within a day or two, our beaches will look like those in Orange Beach, Alabama and now Pensacola, Florida. And to think that the marshes of Louisiana have been dealing with this for weeks!
In the days to come, there will surely be more unfortunate animals and more covering up by people being paid to do so. I will make every effort to film and get evidence of this happening because it's going on all along the coast from Louisiana to Florida. Stay tuned!