Residents mourn disaster in Gulf

ESSEX/JAY - A few dozen Essex County residents came together earlier this week to share their concern for those affected by the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Vigils were organized in Jay and Essex June 8 to mark the 50th day since an offshore oil rig operated by British Petroleum exploded and sank, causing an underwater pipeline to break and release a seemingly uncontrollable gusher of crude oil into ocean waters.

The pollution has had a devastating effect on both wildlife and communities in and around the Gulf and there seems to be no end in sight to when the leak will be contained.

The vigils, part of an initiative from political action Web site MoveOn.org, called for stepped-up efforts to end the leak and reduce the United States' dependence on oil.

"This is a sensitive vigil in support of the people of the Gulf region and the creatures of the Gulf region," said Laura Smith, a MoveOn.org member who organized a vigil at Beggs Park in Essex. Nearly 30 people, including a few local clergy, were in attendance.

Smith, who spends her winters along the Florida panhandle coast and has assisted in wildlife conservation efforts there, said the issue has been very close to her heart lately. She noted how fishermen along the coast have found their harvests depleted by the spreading oil.

"We're not just talking about a few birds here;" said Smith,"we're talking about whole communities and their way of life."

"This has the potential to be not just a catastrophe for the people in the Gulf, but for people in the entire world," said Holly Chabbott, who organized a similar vigil at the Jay Village Green.

Though the group in Jay was somewhat smaller, Chabbott said they have agreed to meet at the Village Green every Tuesday evening to continue efforts towards positive change.

"We decided to use our energies in a constructive way," she said, "like maybe starting a writing campaign to local congressmen and state government."

As a follow-up to the Essex vigil, Smith is planning a gathering for June 26 as part of an initiative by the Hands Across the Sand organization to put an end to offshore oil drilling. More information is available at www.handsacrossthesand.org.

For more information, and to donate to restoration efforts in the Gulf, visit www.moveon.org.

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