Monday, August 15, 2016

The Derailment and the Dress

I haven't heard a peep from Mimi for several months.  Cobwebs are forming between her ornate wrought iron limbs.  She's mad at me, you see.  I have been thinking of shutting down Mimi's Suitcase and she's not happy about it.  But I have been derailed.  By a train.  And by life.

With a permanent move from California to Oregon throwing me off my stride, I still wake up daily with a nagging question:  "Did we do the right thing?"  I am saying "Yes" more often these days, but two months ago, the answer was a solid, resounding "NO."

Three days after we rolled up to our new home with all our worldly possessions in tow, a train derailed a few hundred yards from our doorstep.  The explosion shook the ground beneath us.  We looked out our bedroom window and saw a massive cloud of black smoke.  We thought a bomb had exploded, but then realized that several oil-filled tank cars had just rolled off the tracks
.Along with several neighbors we wasted no time evacuating.  More tankers were derailing.  Would the whole train go up in flames?  We weren't about to wait around and find out. I grabbed my purse; my husband grabbed his cell phone and laptop and we drove east to The Dalles on the old Highway 30.  Interstate 84 was closing down.

Checking into a hotel, we spent a sleepless night listening to the news.  The fire was out by 11 pm.  There were no deaths and no injuries.  We learned that 16 tanker cars out of the 96-car train derailed.  They were carrying crude oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota to a refinery on the west coast.
Lady Luck was with us that day. (And with Union Pacific.)  The derailment happened near a popular windsurfing and hiking area, but because there was no wind that day and because it was hot, no one was out.

Not only that, but the 47,000 gallons of oil that spilled poured into our local sewage treatment plant, rather than the Columbia River.   It seems like a miracle.

And that is what shakes me up.  It's the what if's . . . that cause me nightmares.
   But what, you may ask, does this have to do with a dress?

Well, because we were without water for a week, we stayed away.  (I'm sorry.  I just couldn't tolerate the Port-a-Potties)  It was the day I found myself shopping on West Burnside in Portland that I finally began to relax.  With all the house repairs down South and then the move, I hadn't been shopping for a long time.  My husband and I split up and I spent a happy two hours trying on clothes.  I gave myself permission to buy a new outfit.  I needed cheering up desperately.

When I got home and put my new dress on Mimi, I heard her speak for the first time in months.
"Uh, Marea, what in the world is this?  It looks like an oil spill."

Did I hear her right?

I stepped back and to my horror, realized that those What If's had affected me subliminally.

I had been derailed.

Our Oregon Senators introduced a bill in Congress last month called The Mosier Act, calling for federal regulators to investigate every major oil train derailment and to place a moratorium on train traffic until completed.  It calls for the Department of Transportation to establish and to enforce a standard that reduces the amount of volatile gases in crude oil.

  Many people want such traffic to stop completely, but we all know that isn't going to happen.  Oil has to reach those refineries somehow and that promised pipeline from North Dakota to Texas doesn't seem to be happening.  Trains are still safer than trucks.

I still can't walk along one of my favorite trails because it parallels the railroad tracks.  Probably never will.  As long as crude oil is transported by train, we all live with the inevitable.  A derailment will happen again.  Only next time, we might not be so lucky.

1 comment:

  1. All I can really say is how frightening this must have been and I can understand why you no longer walk that trail.There are never simple solutions to complex problems and I hope one is reached soon.
    On another note I really like your dress and think Mimi is being a bit harsh. All the best.