Saturday, November 8, 2008
by Riki Ott
A story that began on Friday March 24, 1989.
That is the day that the oil tanker Exxon Valdez spilled many millions of gallons of oil into the sound, and began one of the biggest corporate cover-ups and political shames in the history of this country. The day that a nightmare began.
This book tells the tale of this unwilling journey undertaken by the town of Cordova Alaska, by its families, small businesses and not least of all the wildlife of this microcosm of American Life. People like you and me who wanted nothing more than to work, to live and to seek happiness in their corner of the world.
The main characters of this story, Riki , Dan, Sam and Linden and their children put faces on the misery, on the loss, pain and fear. You will not find a just collection of data here. You will learn about the people who endured this tragedy and fought for years to bring life back to their home. Never giving up but always giving. Helping each other is truly a way of life in Cordova. That is one thing that has not changed.
It took five years for the "speedy trial" of Exxon to take it into the courts. A ruling finally came down and was of course appealed. It was February 2008 before Exxon's appeals reached the Supreme Court, and June of 2008 before they ruled. That a ruling reduced the amount of punitive damages to 10% of the original ruling.
There are fish in the sound these days, but it is not the same. I will never be the same. The herring have not rebounded, it may take many years for that. The people are another story. They have carried on. They have found their way through some very bad times. Life changing times. But most of them found a way to survive, to not give up.
This book is a reminder that what happened to the people of Alaska could happen to any of us during this time when the rights of the individual matter far less than those of the corporations. What was brought to the attention of the country and the world by what happened when the Exxon Valdez bled oil into the waters off Alaska, was only the beginning. The last chapters admonish us to step away from our televisions, climb out of our cocoons and get involved with our communities, our politics and our country as a means to save our own way of live and indeed, our republic.
Very timely, as this book comes to us at a time when our country is experiencing a surge of renewal. A time when our rights have suffered blow after blow, but we find ourselves ready to once again stand up and fight for ourselves and our country.