Heading West (on I-10)

July 4th, 2010:

Somewhere along I-10 W – With both the crisis and our plans constantly shifting, we are relocating to New Orleans, Louisiana in hopes of capturing the spill’s impact in its most devastating form. The effects we will soon see will be on another scale than what we’ve already seen, but leaving Florida leaves many questions unanswered. While the state’s western region lies on the relative outskirts of the spill’s effects, the impact is undeniable. In cities like Pensacola, oil has already scarred the beaches and scared away tourists. In nearby Destin, where the “product” is in the form of sheen and tarballs, an entire community is seeing its way of life transformed and its way of thinking jolted. If there is one word that plagues this area in particular it is the word “unknown”. I can’t recall how may times we’ve heard residents speak about their fear of the unknown; unknown impact with unknown effects and little to no control over it all. This fear, which began distantly two and a half months ago, has grown and now lingers ominously on the minds of the entire community. On the surface, one might be able to feign ignorance at the changes and thoughts on everyone’s minds, but underneath fisherman and bartenders alike share constant apprehension about what’s to come.

A testament to the resiliency of human nature, communities such as Destin are coming together to protect their shores, but the psychological toll that a crisis like this incurs ought not to be dismissed. The stress that accompanies constant fears about your home, livelihood, and loved ones is a heavy burden to carry for an individual, let alone an entire community. From some of the first people we spoke with, the fear of suicide within these communities was an eery yet evident thought. Eleven days ago, that fear became a reality when a Gulf Shores fisherman took his life aboard his boat. A tragedy like this hit home for many communities in the Florida Panhandle and was a sad reminder of how fragile life can be. The relief needed in the Gulf goes beyond getting oil off of its shores, it goes beyond the ocean and the businesses, it goes deep into the minds and thoughts of the millions affected.

-nss

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