For six months, I have lived and worked near ground zero of the worst oil disaster in US history. I’ve traveled on boats hunting thick, reddish peanut butter-colored crude that slowly washed towards the coastal marshes of southern Louisiana. I watched tough, resourceful people of the bayou weep at the sight of the oily tide invading precious fishing grounds.
It’s been an exhausting yet exhilarating experience, and I have grown close to people in this community. I’ve gotten to know fishing families that are struggling with possible health risks to their children. I’ve watched divisions and conflicts rise up between fishermen who have been paid to work for BP on the cleanup and those that never got a dime. I’ve lived here and learned a lot in the process, including rule number one: never get in a boat with someone who doesn’t know their way around the bayou. You’ve never lived until you get stranded on a sandbar in the delta bayou at night and have to swim in the dark through the muddy, alligator-infested waters to safety.