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2 years later

Two years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by BP exploded. 

11 men working on the rig lost their lives that day. 11 families lost their loved ones forever. Let us take a moment to honor and remember them. 

~  Jason Anderson  ~  Roy Wyatt Kemp  ~  Donald Clark  ~  Karl Kleppinger  ~  Shane Roshto  ~  Dewey Revette  ~ 

~  Gordon Jones  ~  Blair Manuel ~  Aaron Dale Burkeen  ~  Stephen Curtis  ~  Adam Weise  ~

 

12 crosses on the beach at Grand Isle, Louisiana: one each for the 11 men killed in the explosion and 1 for the Gulf of Mexico.

And then the oil started spewing out, a total of more than 200 million gallons over the next 12 weeks.  The oil reached about 1,000 miles of shoreline and marsh, from Texas to Florida.  Some of it was skimmed up. Most of it, though, ended up in the water column and on the ocean floor.

No one knows how much, but it is pretty well accepted that a lot of oil (and dispersant) ended up at the bottom of the Gulf and in the water column.  Ask most any kid in a coastal community along the Gulf of Mexico what lives on the bottom of the ocean and they'll begin rattling off favorite seafoods: shrimp, crab, flounder.  This week, scientists lent support to what fishermen and coastal residents have known for months: fish, shrimp, and other seafood are messed up -- suffering from lesions, lacking eyes, hosting other weird deformities.  And they all suspect it is related to the oil.  When I was there, I heard many stories of "eyeless shrimp," but I never saw one because these shrimp had been caught during the last shrimping season, more than 6 months earlier. 

And although this piece of information has dominated headlines about the 2-year memorial of the oil spill, there's plenty more to be concerned about in the Gulf.  While in Bayou La Batre, I saw many of the off-shore shrimping boats soberly return home and tie up indefinitely.  They weren't catching many shrimp -- haven't since the spill -- and it just wasn't worth the price of fuel.  I've talked to kids, and adults, suffering from a myriad of health issues that cropped up in the aftermath of the oil spill and clean up.  I personally picked up nearly a dozen tar balls during a half hour walk on the beach at Grand Isle.  I've talked with fishermen convinced that the seafood they're selling is poisonous; they won't feed it to their family, but they feel they have little choice but to sell it to the public.  Kids have complained to me that they still don't feel safe (or their parents don't feel safe) swimming in the Gulf, bays, and brackish bayous. I've commiserated with people who have lost their businesses and watched their towns dwindle as fewer visitors come to fish, swim, and relax.  I've driven through the village of Isle de Jean Charles, looking at all the homes that have been abandoned as land is lost and waters continue to rise.  I've watched sunset by a "ghost cypress," the stately tree reduced to a skeleton by encroaching saltwater. 

I'm going to go out on a limb here: BP is not responsible for everything bad and scary happening in the Gulf right now. (On the flip side, the oil spill is probably linked to a whole lot of it). For sure, the land loss and saltwater encroachment is caused by complex factors operating over dozens of years (oil killing the marsh plants didn't help though).  That doesn't make these things any less bad and scary.

2 years ago, our public attention turned to the Gulf and we worried over what might happen there.  Now, it seems like we've forgotten all about it.  So, on this 2 year memorial I ask you to start paying attention again.  It is now time to look at what can be done to fix some of what is broken, to reach out to those most in need of help, to stabilize an ecosystem, to preserve an amazing culture and way of life.