‘A Day of Remembrance’ at Grand Isle

April 24, 2011


~ In Memory of the Victims of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

My return to Grand Isle was far different from what I’d expected. Often referred toas the hardest hit area from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster, Grand Isleclings to the edge of the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana ~ the fastestdisappearing land mass on earth. It was quintessential American beach town with long stretches of white sand beaches until last year when the BP Oil Disaster changed everything.

Tar balls
Redfish

But as Rocky Kistner of NRDC points out, there is a ‘Parallel Universe’ phenomenon going on at Grand Isle. 

On one hand, there is incredible degradationof the previously powdery sand beaches – most of which is now completely compacted by heavy equipment from cleanup operations. It’s now as hardas pavement. And where it’s not as hard as a rock, your shoes stickin oily gooey muck as you walk. Tar balls litter the beach ranging from almost powder sizedto the size of a large hamburger. When you look out to the Gulf, the waves are opaque and dark brown ~ not clear and blue. And it doesn’t smell one bit like the ocean.

But then you realize that up and down the beach, there arefamilies doing what they have always done. Kids building sandcastles andfrolicking in the waves, in many instances stepping over large rotting redfish or catfish to reach the water’s edge.  I cannot help but wonder –“What are these people thinking?”… and “What health problems will they haveahead of them now?”


Rocky Kistner reported that earlier that day, “Auniformed park ranger packing a 9 mm pistol and a broad-brimmed hat marchedthrough the sand towards us, clearly on a mission. “Excuse me but everyone hereneeds to get off the beach,” he barked. “This beach is closed.”  This, due to tar balls and tar mats that continue to coat the previously sandy beach. 

Later in the day when I arrived, families with their beach chairs & umbrellas dotted the beach and not one officer was present. And no warning signs wereposted whatsoever.

Karen Hopkins,  Jessica Hagan, Darlene Eschete

Beyond this, it is puzzling how parents can be so unaware of the potential hazards in this water that they would allow their kids near it atall. Unfortunately it may be the children who will pay the dearest price, asthey receive a much greater dose of toxins due to their size than the adults.  I question how so many Americans can bury theirheads in this oily sand.

We as Americans are in denial about just how bad this environmental disaster really is. And shame on us as a people for continuing to delay in moving toward alternative energy and to change our lifestyles to lessen our dependence on petroleum. We’re going to pay a heavy price, but the heaviest price, I am afraid will be paid by future generations long after we are gone.

Grand Isle Documentarian Betty Doud
A small but deeply dedicated group of activists attended a rally at this ‘Day ofRemembrance for the Victims of the Deepwater Horizon’. 
But for the most part, onGrand Isle, it was business as usual. Long lines at the Snow Cone stand, peopleswimming, and a baseball game being played on the town field. The dichotomy was striking.  My old and new friends at the rally remarked that most of the residents of Grand Isle don’t want to hear about the oil or protests anymore. They just want things to go back to normal. All they want is to sit in the bleachers and watch their kids play the great American pastime. Just for a while, until Monday comes around again and they face the fact that their lives will never be the same. 


Those businesses that have not closed since my last visit, are barely holding on. Last summer, The Subway, the bars & even the gift shops still had the BP cleanup crews to bring in business. Today there is only a fraction of the number of workers from last summer. Although there are some tourists here, the fishing charter boats are largely without work.

I was surprised to see shrimp trawlers maneuvering in the current by the Route 1 Bridge into Caminada Bay. The water around the boats was black. I wondered if these boats were using TEDs, or Turtle Extrusion Devices, to prevent endangered sea turtles from being drowned in their nets. The situation for the fishermen in the Gulf is serious. There simply are no easy answers to the dilemmas facing the population of the Delta.

And a final word from Mac MacKenzie
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