By Caitlin Lyons, Rapid Response Team Member
As a new member of the LABB and a transplant to New Orleans, I didn’t know what to expect from my visit to Norco. I had been briefed on the situation and the residents but it’s hard to prepare yourself to step into a world you have no idea about. The purpose of our visit was to speak with the residents living close to the flare coming off the Motiva facility and talk to them about possible exposure to Butadiene, Hydrogen Sulfide and Benzene. We were compiling data on whether they had seen or experienced anything unusual or we having any adverse health reactions.
The Rapid Response Team, which I am I member of, and the canvassing team paired up and set out into the community. I was fortunate enough to be paired up with Adrienne who is the head of the canvass team. For the first few houses I stood by and watched a pro at work. Adrienne has a very easy, comfortable way of speaking to people I found that more people were willing to open up than I had expected. The demographics of people that we canvassed were wide ranging and it seemed to be that the younger residents were the most receptive to what we were doing.
Our time frame was limited so we didn’t get to knock on as many doors as the canvassing team normally does, but for me it was a powerful learning experience. I was able to see the faces and homes of the families that lie in the shadow of the refineries. I was able to hear from their mouths that they knew that the smoke that leaves a fine layer over everything is toxic to them, or in some cases that everything is in order at the refineries and that the towering flame that lights up the night sky as bright as day is pretty normal and that any harmful chemicals have been burned off in the flame.
We were welcomed into one home, an ally of the LABB in the area, and we were able to ask more personal questions and speak to a family that had a lot of good eye witness experiences to share. They were extremely genuine and sincere, and hosted us so warmly that I almost forgot the danger that lie just outside the door. Spending that time with them motivated me to want to do as much as I can to work toward the goals set by the Bucket Brigade. I want to help keep them safe and healthy.
After walking around the community for a few hours I, along with several other team members, found that we were all experiencing headaches and in some cases full blown migraines. This speaks volumes to me and serves as a reminder of what is at stake for the residents of Norco and every other fence line community. I’m excited to get to work with the LABB and to help make an impact that will perhaps be farther reaching than I yet understand.