This past Sunday history was made when over 50,000 people from all different walks of life poured into the streets of Washington, DC to push President Obama to take our nation “Forward on Climate” and say no to the Keystone XL pipeline. There were groups from areas that have been impacted by mountaintop removal, tar sands, fracking, nuclear and more. On Saturday, I attended a rally to help the community of Minisink, NY who are in the battle of their lives to stop a huge gas compressor station from going “live” in the middle of a residential zone. The compressor station is already being built but the community is waiting to hear from the courts this week as to whether or not they will be given a stay of construction while their case is being heard in a federal court.
Over 150 people came out to support this amazing community and I along with others spoke to the community members during the rally. Below is what I had written specifically for Minisink hoping to keep them inspired to continue their fight. What I have learned through this journey is that Minisink Matters because We Matter!
Minisink Rally, February 16, 2013
Life’s journey with all of its unexpected detours brought me to a chance meeting with a
Minisink mom over 16 months ago at a store in Middletown, NY. It was over small chat and the love for one really fabulous art piece that our conversation turned from home goods and family to what her community had just learned they would be facing….a natural gas compressor station in the middle of their town. I kept in touch after that encounter but it really wasn’t until last March on a call with Pramilla Malick that I realized that this area was home to many 9/11 first responders and organic farms.
In April 2012, Leanne, Nick Russo, Deborah and Arthur Lain opened their hearts and their homes to me so that I could document their story. After that, there was no turning back. I was invested as many of you are here today in the future of this community.
When writing this late last night I started thinking long and hard about what I could say to inspire you to continue. I dug deep and thought of many others who claimed victory even under circumstances that seemed impossible. I thought of the parents, grandparents, community members from Coal River Valley – in Marsh Fork, West Virginia.
Marsh Fork elementary school sat In the shadows of a 450 acre Mountaintop Removal site, a 2.8 billion gallon toxic coal slurry pond, a faulty damn sitting just 350 feet from the toxic pond, and a coal loading silo sitting 100 feet from the school in an area where coal mining runs through the veins of a community. A toxic recipe for disaster. The water in the school had gone bad. Their children started getting ill when they went to school, and for one grandfather and former coal miner his wake up call came when his granddaughter looked at the destruction on the way home from school and said with tears in her eyes, “Grand Pa, the coal mining is making us sick.”
So started this community’s journey to take on the giant Massey energy to have them construct a new school for their children. It was a battle where parents put themselves on the front lines, it took more than nine years but this past January, Marsh Fork opened the doors to its new school.
One resident said they had to fight because as he put it, “If we fail as parents we fail as Americans.”
I agree, all of our children deserve better.
My dad, who is a Vietnam veteran, gave me probably the single most valuable words of advice for my lifetime on the morning of my seventh birthday. A lesson I hope to pass on to my son. He empowered me with these words, “Anything is possible if you have the will to fight for it. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Have the tenacity to go for it despite what the so-called odds might be. Impossibility is a state of mind.”
I think about these words often especially on days like today.
So although We the People have no guarantees on what tomorrow will bring, and even
though we stand here today in witness of this backdrop of industrial construction. There is also beauty in the outpouring of love for this community.
I see hope and belief that our voices still matter.
I see the strength to continue what has already been a long battle.
I see heart and compassion for those who are feeling weary.
I see the essence of the only thing that historically has ever brought down any Goliath and that is unity and will.
So to the Minisink community I would like to say you are not alone…..we stand together with you. Because Minisink matters, Our Children matter, Our Communities matter, Our Health matters, Our Food matters, The Air we breathe matters……. and simply because We….. Matter!