The oil has reached our shores. I maneuvered around the media zoo for my daily walk on the beach and I stared at what is called a “tar ball.” As the sun hits, the glob slowly takes on a liquid form and becomes a “tar patty.” The sugar white sand is stained with brown streaks and I watched with sadness as a little sandpiper pecked around for food.
I’m not impressed with the cleanup effort I witnessed; two guys with questionable personal protective clothing and rakes in their hands. Were they mixing the brown and white sand together? Today is unlike any other day I have witnessed at the beach. An ATV with island authority personnel on board passed me and told me not to touch any tar balls, just call in the location to the Department of Environmental Protection, #DEP on any cell phone.
I walked down the pier on the sound side. It is not as sad here, because the oil has not yet reached the inland waterways. Some days I am joined here by dolphins or a Great Blue Heron. They don’t join me today, and I wonder if they will ever return. For every one that washes ashore, others will die out in the waters.
A claim center is set up inside a beach business. The unemployed file in and out - the bait store owner whose business is down, the waiter, the charter boat captain. I saw an interview with one of the claimants, and he stated that the BP representatives were very nice to him. When asked if they gave him a check, he stated no, just a promise, and even then it wouldn’t be enough. The next line may be the food bank.
We grieve for those who died in the fiery beginning as well as for those who have lost their jobs. We are grateful to so many who want to help. The Greater Escambia Community Foundation, Inc. has opened the Pensacola Environmental Relief Fund to support efforts to protect the fragile coastlines and to aid the long-term recovery work in the community. The fact that some costs of clean-up and damages are billable to BP may have slowed the philanthropic response, but new needs are arising every day for area nonprofits helping those affected by this disaster.
Brenda Camper is the executive director of the Greater Escambia Community Foundation, Inc.