We then continued on to Pensacola, Florida to discuss the oil spill’s impact with locals there and inspect beachfronts. Our team scoped out Casino Beach in particular, pictured below, and its tar balls rolling up on the sand (…my foot in comparison to a tar ball).
Fishing families had just started to rebound from Katrina, then the oil spill emerged…
Would you join DC’s Social Media Club chapter and CitizenEffect to create next steps for Gulf fishing families? It’s all happening on an awesome National Day of Action, Wednesday, August 25th.
Since joining CitizenEffect’s Gulf fact-finding mission trip last month (called #CitizenGulf on Twitter), there are memories of certain stories, small clips of conversations, that keep coming to mind. A few in particular clarify the vulnerable ways many fishing families and Gulf residents find themselves since the oil spill. I haven’t shared them much beyond the fellow bloggers that experienced these stories too during the mission trip. There’s something tender about these specific memories that I think have caused me to shy away from talking more about them. It seems time to be more direct and open now, especially as CitizenEffect’s National Day of Action on August 25th draws near.
A local Louisiana resident shared a conversation she had with a priest in St. Bernard’s parish. The priest had been supporting a local community center that distributed meals to fishing families. He realized the confidence and pride many of his parish shared, including one woman in particular. He hadn’t seen this woman for a while and grew concerned on her well being. Recently he saw her approach the food line for a meal. He realized then the level of need she must be facing in light of her pride and resourcefulness he’d observed in her before the oil spill.
Another conversation involves a neighborhood where many Vietnamese fishing families live. Many stand in line at a particular community center weekly, supported by Catholic Charities of New Orleans, to collect food vouchers. There were a range of parents and children. And some local center counselors described the impact on family dynamics: children acting out from family tension and fathers, often the head of the fishing businesses, refusing to stand in food stipend lines due to hurt pride about lost means to provide family income.
A waitress that we met in Pensacola, Florida, who raised her sons near a neighborhood beach there, said she didn’t know what to tell them (her sons) about how their cherished beach had been affected by the oil spill. She and her sons want to go back to the water but, as the waitress/mom admitted, it’s too toxic. She knows their way of life will change for her family and in her words, she: “…doesn’t want to burden her sons’ spirit by telling them the truth.”
I traveled to the Grand Isle for the first time this week, expecting to see a community of locals. The goal, along with fellow Washington, DC bloggers on CitizenEffect’s Gulf Mission blogging trip, was to meet and learn from fishing families about the oil disaster – hoping to find ways to help out. Despite beaches being inaccessible due to disaster response, I assumed neighborhoods and eateries would still be active hubs for local folks we could talk to.
But it was all quiet.
Those visions I had of neighborly conversations on porches or in the popular diner or beachfront restaurants were nowhere.
Other things became apparent there though and elsewhere in the state, making me uneasy for the environment here:
Grand Isle beaches are roadways now traveled by huge humvees transporting supplies and staff to cleanup sites. As logical as this scenario may be for response efforts, it brought home this point: containing oil in the Gulf has consequence to not only water life but species from shore environs too;
As for the Grand Isle’s perceived emptiness, that’s the telling factor: according to many I’ve met, that area is a big family vacation spot. The fact the cleanup effort restricts access creates an inevitable drain on the local economy;
teams of local deckhands and fishermen are now working on oil containment in the inner marshes. Our CitizenEffect bloggers and myself enjoyed meeting many of them in St. Bernard’s parish. They showed fantastic pride in their efforts, managing vast amounts of orange booms hoping intensely to protect the inner marshes and surrounding marina. Yet a few entered into side conversations on how vulnerable they see the inner marsh area. They know if efforts don’t succeed, their life as fishing families will evaporate.
What I’ve come to consider is how much the unseen maintains heavy impact here — shore life unseen by beach based rescue vehicles; unseen local populations that normally fuel local summer economies; and Deep Horizon oil absent from inner marshes (but angst of its arrival pervades generational fishing communities).
So far from blogging experience this week, invisible and evident factors both stimulate concern and dread on what comes next.