Penny Story

By Bri Batiste, Community Organizer

I was lucky enough to be one of the community organizers last week working in Belle Chasse to protest the building of an additional coal plant in Plaquemines Parish. This coal plant proposal will be detrimental to the health and safety of a number of citizens. It will be making upwards of six trips a day carrying 100 cars of uncovered coal, the coal dust created by these cars is a threat to the safety of our communities. Because the size of the coal dust is so small once it enters our lungs our bodies don’t recognize it as something harmful to expel. It stays in our lungs, enters our blood stream and causes a number of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, lung cancer, and black lung.

Along with the health concerns of these trains they will also be dangerous for the community because they will be running along tracks that will block in a number of neighborhoods while making these long unsafe trips. I spoke to one woman in Belle Chasse who had a story so powerful in regards to the irresponsible blocking in of her neighborhood that it is one I feel obligated to share. She shared with me that when her daughter was two she accidentally swallowed a penny, she said the paramedics arrived quickly and were ready to leave when a train came to pass. Unfortunately, this train did not pass, it made an unexpected stop and the paramedics had no way of getting around the train to get the child to the hospital. Luckily her daughter spit up the penny in the ambulance and is a healthy and happy five year old today. But even three years later, as this woman shared her story with me her eyes swelled and I could understand the helplessness she felt on that day. One can’t help but wonder how many similar situations have occurred and how many did not have as fortunate of an ending.

Needless to say these neighborhoods are fired up about attending the public hearing, sharing their stories, and demanding an end to the sacrifice of the health of safety of their families and neighbors. I feel grateful for every second I spent with them and every conversation I was able to have.

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