The BP oil gusher needs empathy to cap more quickly

Image Fran and Margaret Sally Phillips Buffington Orange Beach Alabama
Fran and Margaret by Sally Phillips Buffington. Orange Beach, Alabama when the sands were white and pure.

Down two blocks and over one, there is a house that has two special-needs kids. Every morning at 6:27am, a over-sized school bus with tinted windows roars up to their door and whisks them away. The driver must always be running late because he (or she I can’t see into the bus) punches the gas and leaves behind a huge cloud of exhaust that reeks of burned diesel fuel.

This morning, we were slightly late on the walk and we missed the bus, but not the fuel smell. As we rounded the corner, the lingering odor of the exhaust caught up in my lungs, throwing my otherwise peaceful walk in the cool, early-morning air into a fit of irritation.

* * *

After 9/11, many people here in Dayton expressed their angry and fear about the terrorist attacks. Many had never been to New York City and seen the twin towers up close so the connection to them wasn’t strong. They would mouth the words of patriotism and revenge as if written on a cue card. But there was no deep sadness in their voices, no tremble of loss in their souls. It wasn’t empathetic. Where there was no experience, you saw fear, anger and worry as a veneer in their eyes.

But for the few of us here who had experienced the towers first-hand, the feelings ran deeper than anger and fear. Where there was experience, you saw deep sadness that could only come from empathy; from knowing that none of us will ever again be able to stand small under the towering glass and steel that seemed to lift endlessly into the sky.

* * *

I read an email from a friend last night about the oil from the BP disaster coming ashore on the white sand beaches of the Florida panhandle. Her description of her backyard was about as beautiful as I had ever read and as gorgeous as I remember the last time I was there more than ten years ago. Almost immediately, the sights, sensations and smells of a Florida beach came rushing over me. And I felt overwhelmed with a sense of loss.

* * *

My head was still on the Florida beach when I stepped out to walk this morning. As I turned the corner at the end of the street two blocks down and one block over, the putrid, vile smell of exhaust jolted me out off the beach and into the reality of what Florida is about to become.

And I felt very sad, very helpless and very violated.

Forty-three days of apathy later, I understood why most of us aren’t connecting our lives to the true horrors of what is happening in the Gulf, even as we are assaulted with it 24/7 by cable news as we were with 9/11.

I’d rather be certain than right… PUCO storms again

A couple of years ago, John Stewart of The Daily Show asked one of his guests if Pres. George Bush would “rather be certain than right.” (RBCTR) I wish I could remember the guest, the show, the context, but I do remember the question and apply it to any politician, elected official, boss-man that uses hyperbole to describe a situation or action.

The latest RBCTR came from the PUCO chairman, Alan Schriber in a DDN article when asked if Dayton Power & Light was somewhat at fault for not maintaining their lines and poles, exacerbating the power outage that even now, one week later, 74,000 people are without power.

PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber said it’s “absurd” to think better maintenance would have made a difference in reducing damage from the “absolutely, unequivocally unprecedented” storm.

Hmmmm… unprecedented? Let’s take a look at some recent “unprecendented” events… Xenia tornados April 4, 1974, and September 20, 2000 (they even have a web site!) … oh, we don’t even have to go further, but we could back to the Great Dayton Flood of 1913.

So, Mr. Schriber, before speaking in absolute terms, please look up your facts. Dayton sits in a valley (Miami Valley maybe?) that is a conduit for wind. You could even say that it is God’s little wind tunnel if you want. It is the termination point for large storms that plow onto land from the Gulf Coast. When they are strong enough, we get the last of the rains, winds and general bad weather. Moreover, I can predict when my alarm company is going to be calling me, saying the power is down at my office. I just lick my paw, lift it into the air. If it is dry within a minute, it is windy enough to knock out a DP&L power line somewhere with ease.

PUCO is supposed to be the advocate for consumers to protect us from the monopolistic activities of the utility companies. It looks like the Commission has already made up its mind that DP&L is entirely, unequivocally and absolutely without blame.

Of that, I am certain and right.