Remembering The 47
(C) 2015 Luke T. Bush
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - 7/6/15
The picture was held up for all to see. The name of the deceased was spoken.
The participant then read the text attached to the back of the photo, a short paragraph providing key details about a life taken too soon.
Each of the 47 victims was remembered at the memorial held Monday evening at 30 City Hall Place.
Two years ago on this date a runaway train hauling oil tankers derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Explosions obliterated the town center. The erupting fireballs were so intense that five bodies were never found. Vaporized into nothingness.
The train had been carrying Bakkan crude, a dangerous cargo because explosive gasses remained in the mix. The same cargo that passes through our area, the North Country, every day.
A speaker at the memorial pointed out the window at the nearby railroad tracks just across the river. Mary-Alice Shemo, a member of the local activist group People for Positive Action, said downtown Plattsburgh would be in the blast zone if a derailment resulted in a Lac-Megantic disaster.
She invited people to share their perspectives on the bomb train problem. "Everyone knows something," she said, "but nobody knows everything."
Mary-Alice said that people had to come together, not act as separate individuals.
"None of us can solve the problem with our little Superman selves," she continued. Group, not individual, action could be more effective because everyone had something helpful to offer.
John Andrus, retired director of the Clinton County Public Health Department, spoke about the dangers of the oil tankers. He had watched a YouTube video by the National Transportation Board that downplayed what really happened at Lac-Megantic. The video implied that fire, nothing else, caused all the death and destruction.
He disagreed. "[Each tanker] was a bomb, an oil bomb, a gas bomb."
He compared to how a tanker could explode with the analogy of a soda bottle being shaken, the CO2 gas creating pressure.
But the oil tankers weren't carrying CO2, he said, but gasses such as methane, ethane, and butane. So why weren't these gasses extracted before shipping?
"It takes time," Jack explained, "to fractionate out the gasses. And time costs money on the production end of the cycle."
One solution, he said, was divesting from any stock in the companies responsible for the danger, railroads and Big Oil. "That is one way to get their attention to make it safer."
The bottom line, he concluded, was getting off the carbon cycle.
Later the group gathered next door at Macdonough Monument for a candlelight vigil.
City and railroad police officers were monitoring the vigil from across the street. As if any peaceful activist posed a threat. A matter of paying attention where it wasn't needed.
The real threat: an oil tanker explosion obliterating downtown Plattsburgh.
And the bomb trains keep rolling along.