November 15th – 8:00AM(CST)
New Orleans, LA – Just over 5 months ago we started shooting in Destin, Florida, a small community in the Florida Panhandle, much of whose economy and culture relies on the Gulf. With oil still gushing into the ocean just several hundred miles to the southwest, Destin and the surrounding communities were fearing the unknown while bracing for the worst, without knowing what to expect. This past weekend, we went back to Destin to catch up with some of the people we with spoke with in June and July. Now, the summer has passed, as have many of the fears, yet the unknown remains. Residents are generally back to life as usual, but their pending BP claims and the absence of any clear conclusions stand as reminders of what’s transpired in the Gulf.
No doubt, the tourism and fishing industries here were hurt – one business owner told us he saw his business decrease between 20 and 30 percent from last year’s summer season. With the fishing closures and negative stigma that existed throughout the season, fishermen saw their days on the water slashed. Many in the area, however, enrolled in the Unified Command’s VOO (“Volunteers of Opportunity”) program, which helped greatly to counteract some, if not all, of these losses. While many of the affected residents here are still awaiting their short-term, “Emergency” payments from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and have yet to come to any sort of final settlement, it seems likely that most will be made whole again. But of course, only time will tell and we’ve certainly seen a number of Gulf citizens discontent with the operations of the GCCF. What stands out most though, is that despite the relative calm here, there are no true conclusions, no definite answers. Instead, residents of these communities are left to figure things out for themselves now and hope for the best in the future.