April 20, 2010

Posted: August 18, 2010 in About the Book

April 20, 2010 will forever remain in my heart as the day our lives started changing.  At first our eyes were glued to CNN, a news broadcasting station that has never been on our “favorite” list due to its extreme nature in bringing only heartbreaking stories to public awareness and the fact that my father-in-law always said, “Don’t watch it, or read it, if it makes you worry or be sad.”  But like Hurricane Katrina or the 911 tragedy, when it starts involving the whole nation, there’s something abnormally unexplainable, you can’t stop watching it. 

Within a week, when we realized the impact this crisis could have on our own lives we couldn’t help but get more involved.  Daily we would pack up our bags and head out on our bikes to the intercoastal waterways, the bay and the beaches along the Gulf for possible evidence.  I think for the most part we were hoping for reassurance that it wasn’t happening to us…at least not yet.

Although the newspapers and the broadcasting stations told of the spill, no-one was telling you about us, the people who live here and die here on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 

On these daily excursions, I would tote my pen and paper and make notes as to the way our life is and always has been, and the little things I noticed.  Whether it was conversation with a local, concerns of a business owner, or just to watch the mullet jump in the sound, I became more and more anxious that we could no longer take our playground in paradise for granted. 

Before long we were visiting certain places regularly.  Anything that the county or the city was offering we participated in, be it free beach concerts or watching the outrigger kayaks racing on Friday nights down at the foot of the bridge. 

Everything started becoming more and more important.  We would go to the landing daily to feed the ducks and watch the dolphins play.  Sometimes seven or eight of them would be together, several of them toting babies; a sight I’m ashamed to say I ‘ve taken for granted. 

We would pack a picnic and share the docks with the pelicans as they caught their dinner; we would sit for hours and watch the sailboats moored in the sound bob up and down; we would feed seagulls at the beach (something we quit doing years ago). 

Sometimes we would walk over the bridge to the island just to see the Gulf and make sure it was okay, and it would take our breath away.  It’s presence is nothing short of uplifting and inspiring.  Four and five shades of emerald green and Caribbean blues slowly rising, as they neared the shore, exploding with white foam.  You can’t help but be lulled into its invitation.  I have to tell you on more than one occasion I have kicked off my shoes and dove right in, fully clothed, just to feel the swells of the water lift me up and down and taste the salt run down my face.   Then, well, we would stay until the sun sat down on the horizon.

Every free minute we had, we spent on our water.  And in every one of these adventures I began to realize just how much was going on in our little world that some people will never experience their whole lives.  That’s when I started to put it on paper, that’s when I realized if you can’t have this way of life forever, document what you do have for now, so you’ll never forget what it was like to live in this epic region in its finest glory.  

Now my husband, Scott, well, there’s nothing better than being wrapped up in one of his tales of growing up here.  I know in his mind he thinks I ‘ve heard his stories a thousand times, but you know, it’s like climbing up into my grandma’s lap and her reading my favorite bed time story to me; the same one she used to read to me over and over again.  It only gets better with time.

I want to share the letters I’ve written to myself that are secured in my private journals, with you; something I’ve always been hesitant to do.  But now it has purpose. 

 It needs to be told. 

And Scott, although his tales are much more historical than mine, they are most important, because he’s lived this life for more than half a century and now his life is changing. His grandchildren might not ever have the same opportunities that were given to him. 

It needs to be told.

So one afternoon while sitting on the back porch, as I read my journal entry for the day to Scott and he told me a story of his childhood that I stirred a memory of, we came up with this idea.

Before people only know what life is like after the spill, let’s let them know what life was like before the spill.

Sincerely, Connie

Before the Spill: Memories of Life on the Gulf Coast is laid out in a journalistic fashion. Each “section” includes the following:

  •  Scott – Journal entry – A short, current observance that inspires the telling of a childhood memory. 
  • Scott – Childhood stories dating from 1969-1981 about life on the Gulf Coast portray entertaining, Tom Sawyer-like, true-life adventures. These detailed encounters will leave you kicking off your shoes, basking in the sun, and casting your pole for another night’s meal.  You’ll laugh with him as his tales wrap around you and lift your spirit into his mystical, magical life on coastal waters. 
  • Connie – Journal entry and stories dealing with up–to-date situations and growing concerns of how this tragedy is affecting her life, coupled with what it used to be like the last fifteen years she has lived here; a comparison if you will.  You’ll shed tears as these melancholy entries leave you knowing that her life has changed forever.  These emotional and compassionate letters are written in the now and walk you through the spill as it unfolds. 
  • News entry – Current and/or Associate Press news bulletins regarding the oil spill.
  •  Facts – Sets of facts regarding environmental and economic impact to educate the reader on known statistics and values.

 Before the Spill: Memories of Life on the Gulf Coast is dedicated to the 11 men who lost their lives aboard the BP Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010. They are: Jason Anderson, Aaron Dale Burkeen, Donald Clark, Stephen Curtis, Roy Wyatt Kemp, Karl Kleppinger, Gordon Jones, Blair Manuel, Dewey Revette, Shane Roshto, and Adam Weise.

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