On today’s Morning Edition, Russell Lewis reported on the memorial service held in Jackson, Mississippi for the 11 workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20th. Host David Greene noted that they’ve been called the “Forgotten 11,” because so much attention has been focused on the oil leak rather than the lost workers.
The following workers were killed in the explosion:
- Jason Anderson, 35, Bay City, TX
- Aaron Dale Burkeen, 37, Philadelphia, MS
- Donald Clark, 49, Newellton, LA
- Stephen Curtis, 39, Georgetown, LA
- Roy Wyatt Kemp, 27, Jonesville, LA
- Karl Kleppinger, 38, Natchez, MS
- Gordon Jones, 28, Baton Rouge, LA
- Blair Manuel, 56, Eunice, LA
- Dewey Revette, 48, State Line, MS
- Shane Roshto, 22, Liberty, MS
- Adam Weise, 24, Yorktown, TX
The Washington Post’s Lonnae O’Neal Parker wrote a moving article that not only describes some of these men but compares the national response and the individual families’ grief to the situation in West Virginia, where 29 coal miners were killed at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine:
But in a string of towns that ring the gulf, where men leave home for weeks at a time to work good jobs with good benefits miles offshore, the families of the victims struggle, and not just with grief. Loved ones are trying to come to terms not just with lives lost, and no bodies to recover, but with what feels like the country’s collective skipping from dead to gone. There was no national pause to honor the victims, like the one for the 29 West Virginia coal miners who died last month, though both miners and riggers work to fuel the country.
… The 11 victims came from 11 different towns and worked for two different companies: Transocean, which owned the rig, lost nine workers and will hold a memorial service for all 11 May 25 in Jackson, MS. M-I Swaco, the rig services company, lost two, Jones and Manuel.
… There’s no single community to help carry all that grief, as in coal mining towns.
I suspect the ongoing drama of the oil leak is the main reason these 11 rig workers are getting less national attention than the 29 miners. There are only so many broadcast minutes and column inches news organizations are willing to devote to the Gulf Coast, and the ever-evolving oil story is hogging them.
Less apparent is why President Obama didn’t attend the memorial service in Jackson. Is there a minimum number of workers that needs to die in order for the president to attend? Did the administration think it would somehow confuse or hinder the federal response to Gulf Coast emergency? It may be that the event organizers didn’t want the president there. But I think it would have been appropriate for President Obama to speak at the service and, as he did in West Virginia, remind us all that we rely on the fruits of these workers’ labors and should do everything in our power to protect them.