Posts Tagged ‘pearlington’

Visit to Coastal Alabama and Mississippi

In the last post, I highlighted some of my experience from Navarre Beach, Florida the week of January 10, 2011.  On Saturday, Jan. 15th, I had the opportunity to revisit 2 of the families that we interviewed in our documentary last August.

My first stop was in Coden, Alabama to visit with Lori and Dennis Bosarge. Lori is an outspoken critic of the way the government and BP has handled the cleanup in coastal Alabama, and with the use of chemical dispersants in particular. Lori’s artwork in her yard depicting the impacts of the cleanup was what drew us to her originally, and these same pieces are still on display out front.

Brandon, Lori and Dennis in Coden, AL
Lori described some recent health concerns that she has been dealing with in the past few weeks.  She has been having some adverse reactions to something in her environment, but she has been unable to isolate what is really going on.  Understandably, she is concerned that the use of toxic dispersants in the cleanup very close to her home could have contributed to the problem.  Lori went on to tell me about the process of trying to find a doctor in the area that is conducting blood testing for the compounds involved in the cleanup that might shed light on the situation.  She had not been successful in locating one at the time we spoke.

Lori is still concerned with the long-term impact on public health and the fishery along the coast of Alabama.  Her and Dennis live less than a mile from where the local cleanup operation was stationed in Portersville Bay and she has seen too much to simply stay silent and hope things are going to be ok.  We took a ride over to the Bay where our team visited in August 2010, but unlike what we saw last Summer (boat washing stations, large white chemical containers, and fuel tanks lining the docks), there is very little visual evidence of the cleanup operation currently.

Coincidentally, later that afternoon, the community had a meeting at the Coastal Response Center to discuss the oil spill and ongoing Hurricane Katrina impacts.  Outside of the coast, the country may have moved on, but in the bayou, the legacy of these disasters is fresh in the minds of local citizens.  I had to leave before the meeting began, but spoke briefly with several of the community leaders that shared Lori’s concern and had a general distrust that everything is fine and the oil spill has been effectively cleaned up.  I was also given a stack of books by Riki OttThe Sound Truth & Corprate Myth$.  Riki is an Exxon Valdez survivor and marine toxicologist that visited the Gulf Coast during the spill.  She gave several cases of books to the community, and Lori helps distribute them to people who are willing to listen.

After leaving Coden, I headed over to Pearlington, MS to visit with Daryl Arnold and his family. Daryl has been in the area all his life and despite his house being totally destroyed by Katrina, he has committed to staying in Pearlington. I wrote about his resilience in a previous post, and true to form, Daryl gave me another tour of the new home he is building on the site of the one that was destroyed 5 1/2 years ago. It towers above the camping trailer where he continues to live with his mother and girlfriend, and his new cat, which took quite a liking to me when I arrived.

When I asked about the oil spill, he described the somewhat chaotic process that he experienced when he filed his claim.  An attorney from outside the area came to the area and essentially rounded up hundreds of people in town to get them to file their claims.  After a couple of tries, Daryl finally managed to beat the rush at the meetings and got his claim filed.  He’s waiting to hear the results of the process, but is optimistic about the outcome. Otherwise, Daryl’s primary focus is on finishing the construction of the new house.

Before leaving, Daryl’s mother Betty handed me a copy of a book that was written by a woman who spent several formative years of her life in Pearlington – Mama Nettie’s Time to Love by Gail C. Fusco. In the book’s introduction, the author chronicles what life was like growing up in the area as well as her return to the area seeing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina and how it affected life in this small town. She goes on to account the story of how Daryl had pulled his mother from the rising flood waters out through the window of the house and into his boat where they rode out the storm. It really is a remarkable story of survival against all odds that is still hard to fathom.

This very brief trip across the coast provided me with an opportunity to meaningfully reconnect with the people of the Gulf Coast.  I continue to look for additional opportunities to visit the area and share stories of those most impacted. Later today, I travel to Athens, Ga. to attend the UGA Georgia Sea Grant Oil Spill Symposium, which includes discussions by multiple scientists, writers, and community leaders.  The Keynote speaker is Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in Residence and former chief scientist for NOAA.  I will post updates from the Symposium on Twitter and her on the blog as info becomes available.  Thank you for allowing me to share my experiences with you here.

25

01 2011

Reflecting

We arrived back in Atlanta Monday night at 11pm exhausted, but inspired.  It has been a process of reflecting for us, and I think we are each processing what we have just experienced in our own way.  There is a ton of content to sort through and post, and over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting stories that we have uncovered along the way, including more in-depth stories from our time with those who we have mentioned already.

In the meantime, here is a quick pictorial of our journey.  Check our Flickr page for more stunning images, with many more to come.

We filled the tank with B100 Biodiesel at SA White Oil in Marietta, Ga. on the way out.  Special thanks to Travis for the fill-up!

Biodiesel Fill-up in Marietta, Ga.

After a full day of driving, we were crossing the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain in the late afternoon

Lake Pontchartrain

We stopped to take several pictures down in the delta on the way to Grand Isle, La.

Sprit of the Gulf Coast Team

Sunset over the Louisiana Delta

I was glad to be at camp after a long day of travel

Brandon at Camp on Grand Isle

I didn’t know Terrell had it in him

Terrell Clark at Camp on Grand Isle

Saturday morning, the sunrise over Grand Isle was incredibly beautiful

Grand Isle Sunrise

Grand Isle Sunrise

Terrell captures some incredible images on the Gulf Stream Marina

Man Fishing on Grand Isle - Terrell Clark Photography

Terrell at work

Terrell Clark on the Gulf Stream Marina

Provocative installation on Grand Isle

Grand Isle BP Oil Spill Demonstration

Grand Isle Oil Spill Demonstration

We stopped for lunch before our boat charter and talked with some locals

Lunch Stop

On to Bridge Side Marina to meet Captain Kenny for our offshore tour

Bridge Side Marina - Grand Isle, LA

Our team hops aboard with Captain Kenny of Bent Rod Offshore Fishing Charter

Bent Rod Offshore Fishing Charter

Terrell takes advantage of our stopover at the oil rig to capture this image

Oil rig caught in the net

Andy tests the water for herself

Andy tests the water

Terrell takes it all in

Terrell Clark takes it all in

We got to see the BP cleanup operation in progress

BP Cleanup operation

After our offshore tour, we ran into Alexandra Cousteau’s Expedition Blue Planet team on the Marina – awesome people!

Expedition Blue Planet

That night, we met some local fishermen on the bridge, including this very energetic boy with his bucket of crabs

Kid on the Bridge - Grand Isle, LA

On Sunday afternoon we headed to Pearlington, MS where we talked with some local Katrina survivors

Smoking

Our final stop took us to Alabama near Dauphin Island – we stopped to see who was behind this provocative imagery

Provocative Signs

Dispersant statement outside Dauphin Island, AL

We found the creator, Lori and had a deep discussion with her on her experience.

Lori & Kim

We have a ton of content to prepare and upload.  Stay tuned for the video interviews of the people we connected with, and the additional imagery yet to be posted.  If you are not already following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, check us out on those channels too, and you can also subscribe to the blog posts via email on the top right of the page.  Thank you to everyone who is following our journey!


25

08 2010

Resilience

We just left the home of an incredibly welcoming family in Pearlington, Mississippi where we talked about how this local community has weathered the storm in recent years. And by the storm, I mean multiple setbacks, some of which are weather related while others are indirect impacts of past storms and the recent oil spill.

Daryl has saved things from multiple hurricanes including Katrina and Gustav; it’s quite simple to him – you save things that can be saved so that money and resources are not wasted. He showed us tools, generators, fishing equipment – on and on and on was the list of items rescued from past disasters. He now has a shed full of equipment that is perfectly useful.

As he told us his stories about neighbors who were discarding things that had been ‘ruined’ (but that he fixed in a matter of minutes), it became clear that there is a level of ingenuity and resilience in these communities that is unlike anything I have ever seen. Daryl rode out Katrina with his boat tied to a tree while he watched his home float off its foundation in front of him. 3 years later, He rode out Gustav which flooded his home again. He’s still working on the house that is replacing the home he lost in 2005. The beautiful new home is still a few months away from completion, so he stays with his mother and girlfriend in a camping trailer next to the new house that towers above it.

Just imagine for a moment what it must be like to live through that kind of adversity. It’s something I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Regardless of the past tragedies, he is staying put. He loves other parts of the country – especially Colorado ski country, but his home is in the Mississippi low country. No matter how many storms come through, this is where we will always return. I think this embodies the Spirit of the Gulf Coast perfectly.

Special thanks to The Mountain Man, Cameron – my friend in Georgia that made the connection for us. We really enjoyed our visit!

Terrell is driving us up to Gulfport through the rain where he has family we are staying with tonight. I can’t wait to hear what they have to share! In my next post I will show some of the amazing images from our visit with Daryl and his family, but for now I had to share this piece of our journey.

(posted via iPhone)

22

08 2010

Our Conversations

We have had some incredible conversations in our time on Grand Isle and we are beyond honored to be on this mission. We are on the way to Pearlington Mississippi to meet with some of the locals. I’m hoping to connect with some of the folks that I met on my visit back in July.

See my earlier post in yesterday’s experience and stay tuned for more info from our journey.

Thanks for following along.

22

08 2010