What's it like to witness one of the worst oil spills in history first-hand? We scanned Gulf region blogs and Twitter feeds and reached out to our readers, looking for on-the-ground responses to the disaster. Read on to hear these voices from The Gulf.
Plus: Do you want to share your own account or photos of the oil spill's impact with The Daily Beast's readers? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! Join our Facebook group on the Gulf catastrophe here.
Send us your updates for the Oil Spill Crisis Map! This cool interactive graphic tracks live reports from gulf coast residents via tweets, texts, and emails about what they’re seeing along the coastlines. To send in a new report, click here. Come back later to see how the map changes, as the leak spreads.
"God is not proud of those people."
I have watched my three children closely as they process the news of the oil spill and make their judgments on what must be done. My children are 11, 9, and 5-years old and each has come to different conclusions. ...
The oldest says NO MORE OIL...simply find a different source to fuel our vehicles and stop the insanity. The 9 year old is worried and sad about sea life that has died as a result of our needs. He keeps asking why we would make such a poor decision and take oil from the Gulf if this kind of thing can happen. My youngest whispers to me every time he sees the news about the oil spill... "What about all the sea animals they have hurt?? The Final Answer he gives...God is not proud of those people.
—Penascola City Council member Maren DeWeese
Locks of Love?
Hair makes a pretty good sponge for oil—why do you think you have to use shampoo? The non-profit Matter of Trust has put this basic grooming principal to good use with their Oil Spill Hair Mats Program, which gathers trimmings from barbershops and pet groomers to weave into mats to help contain oil spills.
"I smell something nasty in Pensacola and it's not the oil."
When I learned that our wildlife refuge (and others along the coast) were specifically excluded from caring for our affected wildlife because BP hired an out of state "corporation" to do it, I was concerned.
When I was told I had to sign a waiver, as a volunteer, that released BP from any liability towards me, I was concerned. When the meager $5000 pay offs were offered to desperate fishermen, and the fishermen and charter captains willing to assist with clean up were asked to sign waivers of future liability, I was concerned.
When I heard that resident and volunteer access to the actual affected sites would be limited, I was concerned.
It appears to me that the very same inept, negligent people who caused this disaster, who are now engaging in ethically reprehensible actions in our area, plan to come HERE to our HOME, limit our access to our own resources and information, and, basically, "handle" us. I have zero faith in their ability to do so in a way that is environmentally, ethically or effectively sound. I smell something nasty in Pensacola and it's not the oil.
—Daily Beast reader Terri Holley
Click the Image to See Volunteers at Work in The Gulf
Daily Beast reader Melanie Allen vents about BP's seeming disinterest in working with volunteers.
I am one of the two volunteers running the www.OilSpillVolunteers.com website from our homes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The same beautiful inner harbor water runs behind my friend Don's house and behind mine.
We both belong to an active local fly fishing club. For the past week, our lives have been overtaken by our joint efforts to get BP to pay attention to the resources we have assembled for them through the database of volunteers. ... In about five days, we have registered over 7,400 volunteers. Don designed the website so volunteers can be identified who already have haz-mat or HAZWOPR training, those who have experience/training with wildlife rehabilitation, and those with vessels ready to assist in boom placement.
The only training BP has provided for the public is to teach us how to safely pick up trash and driftwood from our own beaches. Despite our efforts to take a proactive approach to organize this volunteer effort for BP, we have not had success in securing their interest in our database. — Daily Beast reader Melanie Allen
Birds in Danger
A member of the Natural Resources Defense Council reports from Breton Island, just a scant few miles from the spill’s locus. The island gives refuge to a variety of birds, from egrets to pelicans, which are in great danger as the oil comes ashore.
Chastidy Fisher Hobbs of the organization Emerald Coastkeeper in Pensacola, FL writes about her "rage" toward BP:
Most of my rage stems from the past several years hearing so many folks claim that drilling in the Gulf is safe and that those opposed to it are environmental wackos. Many dedicated citizens and organizations spent countless hours fighting to keep rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon out of Florida state waters. We celebrated a small victory when drilling legislation was pulled this session and we knew yet another year would go by without rigs 3-10 miles off our coast.
Penascola Beach Blogger John Barrett writes about plans to save sand from erosion caused by oil reaching shore:
The big news on Pensacola Beach is Travis Griggs' local newspaper report that "Escambia County officials are trying to get approval for an ambitious plan to steepen a two-mile section of Pensacola Beach along the shoreline and stockpile sand outside of the oil's reach."
Like doomed Christians inside the glorious capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, local authorities continue casting about desperately for some means— any means—of salvation from the approaching invasion.
A mother at Gather.com brings her family to the beach—in case someday they can’t remember it in its current pristine state.
We walked down the beach, watching our children play in the breaking waves and wondering when another day at the beach would be possible for them. Everyone on the beach seemed to be in a stunned silence. The sadness was palpable.
I have lived within 30 miles of this spot my entire life and I have never seen so many people taking pictures. I snapped pictures, too. I want our children to remember the beach that we have always known. Our youngest child will be 3 years old at the end of May. I took a picture of his tiny feet in the sand knowing that he won't remember today. I don't know what the beach of his childhood will look like, but I wanted to give him a small piece of the beach I came to love.
Kevin Allman on Blog of New Orleans expresses his anger at the media’s reference to the oil spill as a natural disaster.
Dear New York Times: What on earth is “natural” about this? Show your work, please. It’s awfully early in the game for the sort of jawdropping, slap-your-face journalistic inaccuracies we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. What nearly destroyed New Orleans then wasn’t the natural disaster—the hurricane—but the very unnatural disaster of a Swiss cheese levee system misbuilt and mismanaged by the Army Corps of Engineers. The national media got it wrong then. Let’s not be played this time, shall we?
And Allman goes on to wonder what you call an oil spill that isn’t a spill at all?
The Twitter hashtag #oilspill has been a great resource when it comes to reading what people have to say about BP’s incredible cock-up off the Louisiana coast … but it’s not accurate. This isn’t a spill, like the Exxon Valdez, but a pipe far below the ocean surface continually spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the difference between dropping a bottle of water on your kitchen floor vs. putting a garden hose through your mailslot, turning on the tap full blast, and leaving the house.
The blogger at Your Right Hand Thief is angry about the way the media is using food metaphors to describe the spill.
The metaphors have gone from "iced tea" to "chocolate milk". What's next? Floating pudding? Baked Alaska? Do us all a favor and lose the food metaphors when you're talking about toxic spewage. Democrats are telling us not to panic-—" let nature take its course." Are you f-cking kidding me? Bob Marshall says the " terror is justified." I'm gonna side with him.
A New Orleans resident on NEW ORLEANS blog smells the oil, and notes that the destruction of the marshes at the beginning of hurricane season will mean less protection from upcoming storms.
I can smell it. At least I thought I could. I spent most of yesterday in Baton Rouge, and when I returned to New Orleans and opened my car door, something was definitely wrong. …Even so, the two events are related: Today’s oil spill will mangle the marshlands that would ordinarily reduce the force of tomorrow’s hurricanes. Hooray for irony.
Where There's Smoke...
Members of the Coast Guard shot this footage of a controlled burn—meant to stem the spread of the oil—from their boat near the spill.
Alex Woodward on Blog of New Orleans goes to Jazz Fest and reports on rocker Eddie Vedder’s comments about the Gulf disaster.
I was savoring a softshell crab po-boy between stages and hoping I’d be eating more, oil permitting. Later that afternoon, also on the Acura stage, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, a half-bottle-of-wine into the band’s set, took a moment to “toast” BP. The big wigs at the oil giant must have nice homes and must take nice vacations with their nice, well-to-do children, he said, and surely, they must be looking for summer plans. “Send your sons and daughters, BP,” Vedder said, “to clean up your f—king mess.”
A blogger on Risk Rapper predicts an end to a region’s way of life.
Louisiana has declared an emergency shrimping season for the offshore beds at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The emergency harvest of shrimp, oysters, and stone crabs is a desperate attempt to grab a final yield from a once bountiful aquaculture that sustained and defined the regional Cajun identity for many generations. The spreading oil slick gushing from a toppled offshore oil platform threatens to bury that life as it covers the delicate ecology with a toxic cloak that may spell a death blow to a region's way of life.
New Orleans resident and author Poppy Z. Brite on the blog Dispatches from Tanganyika wonders why the necessary measures aren’t being used to protect New Orleans.
Sadly, I've already seen my first "Why do those people live there?" comment about this disaster, citing the National Geographic article that was so full of errors I was surprised such a reputable magazine printed it. Do we really have to go over this again? The technology to protect our coastline exists. It has already been implemented in the Netherlands. If we matter enough, it could be implemented here. If not, the rest of the country will eventually lose huge amounts of seafood, oil processing, cheap goods that come in through the Port of New Orleans, and much, much more. It's partly your choice.
And here are some of the most poignant tweets: