By Naja Battle
Before deployment to Marrero I had few expectations. My first thought was that the communities that we served would be mostly African American. I’m from Memphis, TN and the neighborhoods that are usually taken advantage of are that of minorities. I was surprised at the diversity and in a way, a little more concerned. Not only do these refineries affect minorities, but various ethnicities. I also didn’t expect some of the reactions that I got during the trip. I was horrified by the experiences of some of the residents. One lady explained to me her fear and nervousness that she would get from smelling the gaseous odors, especially since she had children and had an elderly woman staying next to her. Another woman I spoke with had just got back from the hospital because she was concerned about how the pollutants were affecting her. She was beginning to feel a shortness of breath and strongly believed it was because of Vertex.
This experience was life changing in that I got to make direct contact with people going through health related problems that could be totally prevented in contrast to just looking at data on a paper. I highly suggest that the owners and supervisors of refineries and chemical plants deploy out to the neighborhood it’s around and talk to community members to get a better insight on how their actions affect other people. Regardless of the dismay, I feel the Emergency Response Group’s presence gave residents hope that their safety does not go uncared for and that they can be a part of changing their situation. I received several thank yous in Marrero that touched my heart. They were grateful to be given insight and I was grateful to help.