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Nirvana No More

Nirvana No More

Craig Skaggs

Pam and I sold our farm in Tornado, West Virginia, three years ago and launched out upon America to explore and live in our recreational vehicle.  We spent weeks in places like Cape Cod and the ports of Maine and Nantucket.  We toured the mansions of Wilmington and Newport. We retraced the lives of people we hadn’t known existed.  We went to every state museum.  We discovered our ancestors all the way back to the Mayflower and Jamestown.  We watched launches from Cape Canaveral.  We watched moons over Miami. We drank in the Keys.  We felt the America I never dreamed of in history class. 

In our travels, we found Nirvana: a place called Gulf Shores, Alabama. Of all the places that we had spent months in, including Nashville and Savannah, it was the most friendly.  The beaches in Alabama were so white that we felt we were driving through snow drifts as we floated to the dozens of seafood restaurants, many located at marinas that allow boats to dock.  Though Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan devastated the area in 2004-2005, the folks rebuilt – without the fanfare of New Orleans. 

We decided to settle here in Gulf Shores because of the people and lifestyle:  sugar-white sand, emerald water, great weather, superb fishing, dozens of wonderful restaurants.  The people were so nice.  Gulf Shores was the utopia where we would finish our lives.  It was as though we had found a bunch of West Virginians down south on the Gulf of Mexico. We fit right in. 

On April 19, we made an offer on a beautiful home near Mobile Bay.  On April 20, BP and the gang told us that there was going to be no problem because their rig in the Gulf caught fire.  We put the home of our dreams under contract April 22, while BP and the gang said the sinking rig was no problem. 

          

Now, the government, which should have held BP and other companies to task for poking holes in Mother Earth, has put BP in charge because, as the government says, BP is responsible. Previously, BP had said this epic destruction was unimaginable.  Regulators apparently agreed.  Experts say the Gulf will fill with oil, and the spill eventually may round the Florida Keys and climb the east coast of America.  Say goodbye to seafood and manatees, America.  The economic devastation will be long lived.

As a native West Virginian, I know that the coal and petroleum companies that run our country will destroy us in the mines and in the Gulf of Mexico.  We asked for it, we bought it . . .  Energy.  I ran from the Coal River mine sediment in West Virginia.  I shrank from the coal economy that crushed my grandfather under a coal car. The coal and oil companies (and our government), led by British Petroleum, a foreign company, now have crippled my dreams. 

But more importantly – all those ravaged by Katrina now scream that the oil washing ashore is the end of everything in middle America.  Everything.  We learned nothing, they say, from the Katrina disaster.  Katrina was nothing compared to this mess, they say.  And I’ve never been through a hurricane, so I’m very, very fearful of this oil now. 

I’ll just live here on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and wish for what might have been.  I’ll wait and hope recovery doesn’t come too late for me and mine. It’s a shame Katrina was not a lesson from which we could learn.

Craig Skaggs, who contributed this work and the next, is a retired lobbyist and author of "Deceiving Destiny" a biography of his mother growing up in the mountains of West Virginia during the Great Depression and WWII.  He is a Viet Nam veteran.  Skaggs has been awarded the honor of "Distinguished West Virginian" by that state's governor.  He also received the United Nations Environmental Programme award for his work to end production of chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer. In April he and his wife, Pam, moved to Gulf Shores, Alabama.

The Spill

In 2010, when the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill exploded and threatened the way of life that Gulf Coast residents know and love, West Florida Literary Federation offered an outlet for expression. During the six months when the uncapped well gushed, and for one year following the successful capping of the well, writers, poets and photographers from across the country sent us their words, thoughts and feelings, thereby providing a literary record of the Deep Water Horizon environmental disaster. Here are the best of the submissions.

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