I am 65 years old. I am probably in the last chapters of my life. So I am not looking at my future but the future of all the children I have taught and cared for over the years. And I say this to show that I am not writing today for me but for those to follow.
About two years ago, a photo and a story from the Times rolled up on my Facebook news feed and I was intrigued.
It was a man sounding the alarm about open burning at Camp Minden. I quickly shared his post and followed his progress. He had about a 100 ‘likes’ at the time. But as the days went on, the numbers began to climb. An invitation to Shreveport for an organizational meeting was offered and I didn’t hesitate. I was joined by State Rep. Gene Reynolds, Frances Kelley and a room full of concerned people determined to not let this happen in North Louisiana.
People quickly signed up to help. The next few months, I saw the numbers go from hundreds to thousands. Across the United States people heard the cry for help as the realization that history was about to made or changed.
As the realization that the largest stockpile of M6 in American history had made it’s way to Minden, Louisiana, the nation was waking up to what that meant for those living around Camp Minden. Friends and allies from across the country and across the world began to chime in. And while we met locally and shared strategies on how we were going to handle this giant, we found a world of support.
We met weekly, we talked daily, we rallied monthly….. Whatever it took to alarm our neighbors that we could not let this happen. As our numbers grew, the public exposure grew and the community was finally alarmed that their quality of life was about to be drastically changed.
As the months rocked on and we could see that we had the attention of those who could change the course of history, a dialogue committee was formed. Bringing all agencies together, the EPA, the LDEQ, the Army, the National Guard and the concerned citizens, we began the process of gathering the information about what alternative methods could be used instead of open burning. This open to the public process helped us to understand and respect what the community wanted, too. The public outrage and the public sentiments were clear.
They wanted this stuff gone, quickly and safely. And when they were done, the wanted the burn chamber dismantled so we would not become the nation’s dumping ground again.
We knew that our obligation to the community was a priority. Without their support, we were nothing. The community responded. They offered their concerns, their questions as well as their wants and needs. And we listened.
The Army has since acknowledged that open burning is environmentally hazardous and efforts are underway to ban open burning nation-wide. That happened because a few concerned citizens took the lead and led the march to change their own history and hopefully change it for communities around the country who are experiencing their own nightmares with military/industrial waste.
Now there is a push to keep the burn chamber. There are promises of money and jobs which are both in short supply. And I guess that is where we all try to figure out what we are wiling to sacrifice. Because it will be a sacrifice. You can’t have millions and millions of pounds of industrial waste sitting around waiting for disposal, safe or not, and not think that it will have an impact on our air, our environment and our quality of life. It will change us forever. We will become the nation’s dumping ground for military and industrial waste.
So, while there are those who would have you believe that the people who started this campaign to stop the burn were less than truthful about the fate of the burn chamber, just remember why they did it in the first place. They expected no money, no fame and no credit. And that has not changed.
Your child’s future depends on how this issue is accepted or rejected. As an advocate for children, who have no voice and no vote, I want a safer and less toxic existence for them. I think they have suffered enough. That is why I signed up to fight and they are who I will continue to fight for.