Thursday, April 14, 2005


Recently, there was a mental health forum here in town for those who were in the refinery at the time of the blast. UTMB hosted it and it targeted mostly those who were injured by the blast, or people who knew victims. It was nice that UTMB would extend this service to refinery employees even though only one person showed up.
I would have liked it better if they had done something like that for the entire community. There's no telling how many people in Texas City are still affected by the blast almost a month later. I know I'm among those who find it difficult to move on, mostly because it was literally so close to home. Of course, even more than 20 years after the first one in 1981, it's still hard to get over that. After all, I was five, and I really coudln't make sense of what was happening.
To be five years old and jolted out of bed by some unknown force was traumatic. I can see that now that I'm almost 30. What I remember of that night back in 1981 is that it was late, the sky was orange, and it was foggy. We ended up at a neighbor's house for some unknown reason. Dad explained later it was because he wanted to hear what the police were saying on the scanner. Of course, this was in the days before cellular phones and the internet and the rapid dissemination of information.
That's one of those things that has stuck with me all my life. Even going back and researching it, I realized that it was maybe a good thing I was young and couldn't quite understand what was happening. Ironically enough, the unit that exploded in 1981 was the same unit that blew up last month. They were both octane boosting units, and the blast pattern was the same. The only difference is in '81, it happened late at night, and this year's happened in the middle of the afternoon.
As I get older, I find it hard to take on too much at once emotionally. I used to be a stronger person, but something's just changed inside me. The first time I noticed it was when I was 25. That summer, we had Tropical Storm Allison, and our house was once again devastated by flooding, but not as bad as others in the Houston area. My aunt was sick, and she died. Then, I had to be moved out of my dorm into a hotel because our dorm had been condemned.
Things like that I was able to handle, but I had finally reached my breaking point. I went to a counselor, and it helped a little. It was enough to get me through the rest of the school year. This time, it startd whenI got laid off my temporary job.
I thought, well, I'd been out of work a year already, I can get back on my feet again. Of course, that's always easier said than done. My local state employment office has been useless in helping me fnid a job. The worst part about being out of a job was the frustration from not having enough experience in one filed to get hired somewhere.
I was doing okay, and then the blast happened. It was a week before the one-year anniversary of the fire last year, and I didn't think that there'd be another one so soon.
What was most unsettling for me was the loss of life, and the fact that it was the same old story. There was a lag in safety violations because once again, the government was too leniant on another big corporation. So now, I'm here telling mysself, I can get over thiis. I always did in the past, but something was different about this one. Instead of being a 5 year old sleepily wondering what was going on, I'm a wide awake 28 year old watching the tragedy unfold. The one thing that remains the same throughout is I'm still trying to make sense of it.
There's other things in my past that I've had to reconcile on my own. Things most people would have just given up hope on. This will just be one of those deep emotional scars that will never quite heal correctly. Every time something like this happens, it just reminds me how precious life is.
So, on April 23, at 1:20pm central time, observe a moment of silence. Say a prayer for the dead and the injured. People died in the process of refining the gasoline that runs our vehicles. And remember that until standards improve not just here, but across the board, incidents like this will continue to happen.

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