When Kindergarten classes were held in what was called Lincoln Elementary School a couple of decades ago, I remember seeing Nancy Gee taking her students out to meet their community. They kept together, minded and always returned knowing more about the town where they lived. This week that sort of happened again. It was a joy to see a whole covey of students emerge out of what is now Miami's Academy and begin their walk into the community. I saw it all. For me it takes 380 steps to go from their front door to the front door of the LEAD Agency which was my lookout.
LEAD had invited the students and their teachers to come over to begin a partnership for the future. We are not sure what it will look like, but it starts with that first step (and finishes 380 steps later!). What a great beginning with the teamwork effort they demonstrated when constructing a new raised bed donated from the Miami Public Library Community Gardening project to our organization.
The Academy students had already performed some incredible work this year on what we are calling their BF Goodrich Project. When we informed them about the asbestos that was discovered this year at the abandoned tire plant, they used their personal skills to develop ways to educate themselves about the dangers present there, the known benzene, but the newly discovered risk of exposure to asbestos left on site.
The state of Oklahoma might try to stop towns and cities from banning this or that, but the students at the Academy will take it on, they will educate themselves and figure out ways to educate the public.
Everyone at the Academy wrote letters that we made available to the City, the DEQ and the EPA, not asking for much, just for the cleanup to make this town safer to live in. They took a stand and they can do more. If you have a club or organization and want to learn more bet you could book the students, or we will share their presentation and short movie with you. If you teach and need a good way to interest your students these last weeks of school, think about this lesson.
Asbestos was widely used at the BF Goodrich plant during the 40 years it operated and lots of it was left behind. Asbestos can take almost that long to ruin a person's lungs and cause Mesothelioma, "a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the linings of the lungs, abdomen, heart or testes. The only known cause of malignant mesothelioma is asbestos."
We don't need any more people exposed and these young people have been our best hope out in their circles of friends, letting them know for months, the risk that lay just inside the fence surrounding the BF Goodrich plant, and warning them to STAY OUT. The chain-link fence is a barrier that can keep some folks out of the site, but the fence continues to be breached and anyone entering can bring out these deadly fibers on their clothes and share them with family and friends. Spread the word there are now cameras watching!
There will be actions occurring on the site very soon, but if EPA, the City and the DEQ thought there were really people concerned, there could be quicker actions. It is worth the effort to ask for more, even to have our status as a Superfund site reassessed since it sits there on the list with many more like ours that "do not qualify based on existing information" all over the nation. There are already BF Goodrich Superfund sites and our mess is not new to their corporate ways. Remember, companies believe it is cheaper to pollute than the fines would be.
The State of Oklahoma has some new laws that will go into effect this year. People in towns don't have to worry about organizing and attempting to curtail pollution, our state just took your rights away.
But Nancy Gee and others who have followed her have led our children out into the world, wide-eyed to see how their community works, and more will wake up soon and really get what she was showing, that they would be those leaders stepping into those roles and taking on the future we will live through, and wouldn't she be proud to know there are still young people walking out of that old Lincoln school, stepping out and standing in the street with the message, this is our world now and we want it better!
It was like the Wizard of Oz how Nancy Gee came into this story and how this came together. God bless her!
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim