Waiting….. and worrying ….

Pelicans with Boom (Krista Schlyer)

Pelicans with Boom (Krista Schlyer)

That’s what the people all along the Gulf coast here are doing now. The locals, the reporters, the researchers and the wildlife. We are all waiting. We spent the morning in a coffee shop in Mobile with Julie Cart of the LA Times and Steve Gorman of Reuters. They are waiting too. Waiting for the spill to reach shore and we all know it’s coming. Worrying about the impacts once it does. And the longer we wait, the more personal it becomes. Even if we are not from around here, now that we have been here, it has become intensely and disturbingly personal.

So while we waited, we traveled across Mobile Bay this morning on the ferry, passing numerous gas rigs easily within eyesight, Coast Guard boats and thousands of feet of booms that have been laid out to protect this valuable shore line and the wildlife that call this beautiful place home. Brown pelicans look out onto the water from the docks and jetties and were flying around overhead. The few folks that were on the ferry with us all had stories to tell. One very talkative gentleman who makes his living in the seafood industry was concerned about the future. He said he was sure this spill would change the shrimping industry for decades if not more. He was certain he would not see it the same for the rest of his lifetime (and he is only in his mid-50s!). Another man was telling us about his invention, an environmentally safe chemical that could be sprayed on the coastline so the oil would not soak into the sand. Wouldn’t it be nice if it really works??? While we were on the ferry, one of our staff in DC decided to shave her head to donate her hair to the oil spill efforts. Others were planning to as well. Another staffer was making arrangements to collect hair from dog groomers. Everyone had a story to tell and everyone wanted to do something to help. And still, all of us were waiting.

Jamie walking across sand (Krista Schlyer)

Jamie walking across sand (Krista Schlyer)

Once we got off the ferry, we set our sights on Florida. We headed to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, one of the most beautiful, pristine white sandy beaches I have ever seen. As we made our way down the coastline, we ran into a gorgeous Great Blue Heron that posed for Krista, our photographer, for a time before it decided dinner was more important and flew away. All around were signs posted on fencing along the dunes alerting people that this is a protected nesting area for migratory shore birds. Such beauty surrounded us and still we waited.

It made me profoundly sad to think that all of this beauty could be gone in mere days. That this could be one of the last days that anyone could walk on these beautiful white sand beaches without seeing the evidence of the oil spill. I felt very lucky to be here. And very sad to think of what this place might look like in a month’s time. The worst thing about this is that it all could have been avoided. This is not a natural phenomenon caused by Mother Nature. This is caused by people. Something has got to change. If nothing else, we have to learn from this terrible tragedy. Enough is enough!

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