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Barbara Kugler, Taylor Holzer, Amanda Greathouse: A Few of the Citizens Actually Damaged and Ignored in East Palestine, Ohio
It is objectionable to heap scorn upon them at this time of loss and confusion.
A post appeared recently, Irretrievably Broken in East Palestine, about the multi-layered train wreck unfolding in East Palestine, slathered in snark and layered with condescension about the small community of largely Trump supporters with not one name of an actual human being impacted by the aftermath of the incident. I found the tone and the substance of the article to be highly offensive and decided to jot down a few words from an entirely different perspective: the actual human beings victimized by what is beginning to look clearly like the negligence — very possibly, based on the most recent reports, gross negligence- of the train operator, Norfolk Southern, compounded by the almost incomprehensible callousness of the worst President in American History and his outrageously incompetent Transportation Secretary, whose arrogance, hubris and hauteur defy description.
To set the table for my responses, below are a few highlights from the previous article. If this was your sum total of information about the disaster you might be excused for thinking (a) what’s the fuss about since all the government’s tests check out near-perfectly and (b) these poor deplorables in red caps are nothing but money-grubbers looking for the first real money they have ever seen in their pathetic lives.
There are a lot of things broken in this country. But nothing is sadder than the sight of a broken people. They are angry and they want answers. But they are so broken they refuse the answers. Everything is a lie, everything is a coverup, everything is a conspiracy. Or is it just an opportunity?
State and local environmental people have been collecting air, water, and soil samples since the day of the accident. Almost all results have been encouraging, but the good news has been met with resistance. Towns downriver are not reporting elevated levels of the contaminants. The air is testing well. Yesterday they were getting butyl acrylate readings of under 3 parts per billion, where 560 parts per billion is considered hazardous. The municipal water system is testing fine, although local residents with well water were advised to use bottled water until their wells are tested.
So far, five lawsuits have been filed in Federal Court. Lawyers are outraged and are determined to get 67% justice for the residents of the town and 33% for themselves, of course.
I hate to be cynical, but I fear a lot of this is performative and an opportunity to cash in, to move out, and start new someplace else, not that I particularly blame them. …
There are many sides to this story, and the stories of the human beings affected by it, and the previous post represented views from the – corporate? skeptical? hubristic?- standpoint that everything is going just swimmingly (not an apt simile in view of the “rainbow” water in the streams) and just give them a little money and they’ll go away. This post will relate, as briefly as possible because there have been so many lives impacted by this tragedy, the view of a few of the residents of this “poor river town”, actual people like those named in the title whose stories we are finally hearing about thanks to excellent reporting by several members of that endangered species, working journalists who go out and actually meet and interview the people affected (what a concept! why didn’t anyone think of that before?) and then report the facts they have discovered.
One of the very best of that vanishing breed is Salena Zito, who published an extensive piece in The Free Press entitled “We Don’t Know What We Are Breathing”: A Report From East Palestine, tells the poignant story of several residents of East Palestine, including Kaylee Jackson, Christa Graves, Tammy Tsai, Mayor Conaway, David Lonsbrough. One – or at least this one – cannot read their accounts and not be touched by a sense of impending doom for this village of 5,000 residents. Here are excerpts from her interviews with some of the people of East Palestine:
I spoke to more than a dozen people over the past few days and many say they feel dizzy and have headaches. They worry about breathing in fumes that cause cancer. “It is a big fear,” said Kaylee Jackson, 40, who does odd jobs for a living. “These chemicals literally got sucked up into the air during the controlled burn and the derailment. Well, where do clouds go? What comes up, must come down.”
Several locals have taken photos of dead fish floating in the nearby creeks. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates the chemical blast affected more than seven miles of streams, killing some 3,500 small fish.