Three weeks ago, on Sunday, July 6, 2014, friends and citizens of Grays Harbor, along with The Quinault Nation, gathered at Zelasko Park between the two bridges in and out of Aberdeen. They met to honor the 45 adults and two children who lost their lives last July 6, 2013. All were victims of a “crude oil” derailment and explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec. On that fateful day a train exploded like a bomb—a train full of highly explosive crude oil—vaporizing these 47 people, destroying an entire historical downtown: Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada. That was one year ago. While life goes on here and there, life is not yet, and will never be, the same for the families, friends, neighbors and businesses of that community. This could happen in any town today, in Washington State—anywhere. Recently reported current “crude oil explosions” extended 100s of feet into the air in a half mile to mile radius, putting all at risk.
Numbers in attendance at this event were disappointing, estimated to be about 60 by Arnie Martin, President of Grays Harbor Audubon Society. However, the sometimes somber, sometimes joyful, show went on. This remarkable group of friends in Grays Harbor—hosts of the vigil were there to honor as well as inform. An English reading of the heartfelt letters exchanged between Lac Megantic and The Quinault Nation took place and in French as well—the language of Quebec. Many participants wandered about in white tee-shirts with oil trains on front—noting the dangers of “crude by rail” and the three proposed “oil tank farms” at Grays Harbor. Some were wearing large placards and sandwich board signs—47 in all, each displaying a name of a victim of the Lac Megantic explosion. Throughout the day, attendees were seen viewing the large 4 x 8 memorial board with photographs and short biographies of each victim from oldest to youngest. It was a to a quiet, attentive audience that each victims name was read…aloud.
Traffic was heavy that Sunday—bumper to bumper beach traffic; tourists heading home via Aberdeen.
Throughout the day, participants took their turns standing along and on the two bridges of Aberdeen remembering, waving, displaying names of victims, while hundreds of cars passed by. Perhaps, many passengers in many cars had no idea what was being represented there at Zelasko Park. Some honked, or gave a thumbs up while one tourist family from British Columbia rolled down their car window, asking what was going on. When told, they gave a heartfelt holler, “Thank you for doing this, Grays Harbor.”
As the day’s agenda proceeded, mostly unpublicized by local media, it was clear that all the effort and care, and organization made this event successful. The Quinault Nation representative spoke of their position, the harm imposed on the economy, health, safety and jobs by 2.7 billion gallons of “crude by rail” proposed for storage and export at Port of Grays Harbor. With the proposed enormous oil presence of three “Oil Tank Farms” and increased barges, tankers and vessel traffic—the Quinault treaty rights are being threatened—some dating back to 1855. Also of great concern is their position as the largest employer in Grays Harbor, a county with the second highest unemployment rate in this state. “The oil-related jobs argument is a lie. Most oil-related jobs are temporary.” Thirty-one percent of jobs in Grays Harbor are related to the fish and shellfish industry. One oil spill—it’s over. (ProtectOurFuture@Quinault.org)
So, at the end of the day of sign waving, placard wearing, and letter reading— along with honoring Lac Megantic—these friends and citizens of Grays Harbor and the Quinault Nation would say their voice is a heads up to all citizens on this earth; an urging for each of us to inform ourselves of the ever-reaching, ever-dangerous arms of the monopoly of “crude by rail” and “crude oil exporting” proposed here in Washington State communities and ports. Beware. Inform yourselves of the magnitude of this oil venture and the impact it will have on quality of life. (cleanharbor.org)
Carol Seaman is a resident of Grays Harbor and lives on the Chehalis River. She writes extensively for local media on a variety of issues and topics, including “crude oil by rail” to The Port of Grays Harbor and others that impact our quality of life.