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Months after a catastrophic Norfolk Southern train derailment changed their lives and communities forever, residents of East Palestine, Ohio, and the surrounding area feel “numb,” lied to, and abandoned. On Tues, May 30, TRNN hosted a solidarity livestream and pledge drive to raise money and secure much-needed supplies for residents living in and around East Palestine. We spoke directly with residents living in and around East Palestine about what they and their families are going through, what assistance they are (or are not) receiving from the government and from Norfolk Southern, and what we can all do to help.

Fundraiser and information links:

Studio Production: David Hebden


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Welcome everyone to The Real News Network. My name is Maximillian Alvarez. I’m the editor-in-chief here at The Real News, and it’s so great to have you all with us. On February 3rd, 2023, around 9:00 PM at night, residents of East Palestine, Ohio in the surrounding area had their lives changed forever. A Norfolk Southern train on its way from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania, a train carrying over 100,000 gallons of toxic materials derailed and all hell, as they say, broke loose from there to be exact. 38 of the trains, 150 cars derailed from the track running through the town, which had at the time a population of 4,700. The derailment caused a fire. Eyewitnesses said it looked like the entire town and even the sky itself was on fire and residents in the immediate area of the crash site were told to evacuate days later on February 6th, fearing the damage that an uncontrolled explosion involving the train’s, contents and shrapnel from exploding rail cars could cause Government officials at the urging of Norfolk Southern approved a plan to conduct a controlled release and burn of hazardous chemicals, namely vinyl chloride contained within five of the rail cars and we all saw what happened next.

Like a hellish volcano, the controlled burn created a massive black death plume, spewing hydrogen chloride and fosen into the air. The controlled burns were approved by the governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania, but the Federal Environmental Protection Agency claims it did not sign off on the plan. Though Norfolk Southern claims, the E P A was involved in the discussions at the time. In the nightmarish aftermath, residents’ lives have been completely turned upside down. Entire families have been uprooted from their homes with many having to live in hotels or wherever they can find shelter, unable to return home at a fear of exposure to chemicals that were spilled into the water and soil from the derailment and spewed into the air from the controlled burn. Even though government and company officials have claimed the air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink, residents have continuously reported negative health effects from skin rashes, headaches, and dizzy spells to nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath and mouth numbness, farm animals, pets and crops have been contaminated.

Property values have plummeted, local businesses have shuttered or are barely surviving. All the while frustrated residents report feeling lied to, misled, disregarded and abandoned by Norfolk Southern and by their state and federal governments and their ongoing nightmare has been gradually forgotten by the national media. It’s going to take a long time to fully appraise the damage of this train derailment on the local population, on rail workers and first responders and on the environment. But like many of you, I have a terrifying suspicion that for the past four months we have all born witness to the unfolding of a disaster that will be a black putrid stain in our history books. Life for the People of East Palestine and the surrounding areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania will never be the same. That’s what you need to remember always, no matter how much money Norfolk Southern throws at the problem it caused, and Norfolk Southern, by the way, made a 3.24 billion in revenue last year.

It can never buy back the life that it stole from these people. No matter how much politicians and the media want to move on and return to normal people living in and around East Palestine working people, they can never return to normal. This is their reality now. They have been irrevocably Unforgivably failed by Norfolk Southern and by their governments. If you listen to a recent episode of my podcast Working People, which we also publish here at The Real News, then you already have a sense of how deep this failure goes. On that recent episode, I have the honor of speaking with three women living in and around East Palestine, Ashley McCullum, Kayla Miller and Christina Selo about what their families and their communities are going through, how they are banding together to provide mutual aid for one another, and what we can all do to help.

What they told me frankly was harrowing. They are running out of drinkable water. Their children are understandably traumatized. They are still waiting on results for tests on their water supplies if they even got their water tested in the first place. There is so much more that is needed to begin the process of repairing the damage that has been done to this community. And clearly the people that are supposedly in charge of this situation from Norfolk Southern to the government are not doing enough. And that is why after we finished recording that recent episode of my podcast, I spoke with Christina, Ashley and Kayla about how we would try to do everything we could here at The Real News to lift up their stories and to help get their stories out there to our audience and to encourage as many folks as we possibly could to listen to them, to hear what they and their families and their communities are going through to hear what they need and what they’re not getting and what and to hear what we can all do to support them.

So that’s what we’re going to do today on this urgent Real News live stream. You’re going to get to hear directly from the incredible brave folks of the East Palestine Unity Council, a number of whom we had on that recent podcast episode, as well as some other residents who have agreed to come on and will be joining us later in the live livestream. We’re also going to be hearing from the great Matt Weaver of Railroad Workers United, and we’re going to talk about how everything that we covered last year, the intense reporting we did on the crisis, on the nation’s freight railroads by talking to railroad workers like Matt Relentlessly. You guys know myself and my colleague Mel Buer have been doing that work for about a year and a half now, and if people had listened to the railroad workers, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this situation, but we’ll get to all that in a minute.

The point I want to make, and I promise then I will shut up and I will bring in our incredible guests, is that we are here to listen and to offer as much support and mutual aid as we can. That is the goal of tonight, and I am so grateful to all of you for caring about this, for tuning in and for helping us spread the words. So please, before we get going, go to the description of this YouTube live stream. There you will find a list of links that we have collected that include GoFundMe for the individual families that you will hear from on this call, as well as general GoFundMe that have been organized and vetted by the East Palestine Unity Council. Also information about how you could donate to individual individuals on this call as well as participate in a resource drive for essential things like bottled water ahead of a June 3rd shipment that so Mama Official is bringing to East Palestine.

So you will find the information on how to donate to those different drives and fundraisers in the description for this video. I’ll remind folks throughout the stream that those links are there, but I just wanted to let everyone know upfront that that’s where you can find them as you watch this stream. All right, so enough from me, we know the basics of why we’re here and we’ve got about an hour and 20 minutes to give y’all access to the people who are living on the front lines of this nightmare that they never asked for. And without further ado, I want to bring in our first guest whom you guys know from the recent podcast episode that I mentioned. Christina Selo is a member of the East Palestine Unity Council, but she is representing residents living on the Pennsylvania side of the border, and residents in Pennsylvania have been sorely underrepresented in this story and in the relief efforts as Christina can tell you in a second.

But of course we know that when you know that massive black plume of smoke, toxic smoke rose out of the derailment site, it’s not as if all those chemicals just stayed on the Ohio side of the border. So it’s really important to sort of understand that this is not an issue that is only applying to red states or blue states or that somehow only certain people living in certain parts of the affected area matter. Here we’re trying to do what we can to get as much aid to as many people as we can as possible. So Christina, I wanted to bring you in here and first of all, thank you for joining us and ask if you could introduce yourself to the good livestream viewers and listeners and in about say five minutes, if you could just say a little bit about your experience of the derailment and what life has been like for you and your family in the nearly four months since that fateful day. On February 3rd,

Christina Siceloff:

It was about nine o’clock at night and I saw a post on social media about the trained derailment in East Palestine and rushed outside with my dad to see if we could see anything. And we live in the middle of the woods so we could see through the trees and going up over the trees, a wall of fire and smoke going up into the air. At that point, we thought that the whole town of East Palestine was on fire, so we started calling neighbors and until about four o’clock in the morning I was up trying to figure out if we should leave at that point even. And then I ended up going to bed and hoping that everything was going to be okay through the night.

Then a couple days later, I was getting my son ready for school, actually the Monday after I was getting my son ready for school, whenever I heard on social media that the train cars might be detonated. So I decided that I wasn’t going to send him to school because I was concerned that if they locked down and then sent the kids home that I wouldn’t be able to get to him or get back home to get my dad. So instead we decided that we were going to get enough food for our animals and ourselves and come home in case we ended up getting put on a shelter in place order. As the day went on around, it was around three 30 that they were supposed to do the controlled release. And so we were at home, we were still debating on leaving or not trying to call friends and family outside of the area.

We weren’t really sure how far we should go. We did not have an evacuation order where I’m at. So it was kind of like you go on your own dime if you want to put it that way. So we ended up staying home because we couldn’t get ahold of anybody to know where we could go and we thought, well, if we stay here, we’re going to see what happens and see if we’re going to get blown away. So afterwards, even later on that same night, I started getting sore throat, coughing, headache and that sort of symptoms and even more symptoms continued to last even up till now. The past week has been a little bit better with symptoms, but from what we understand, they have not been working on the contaminated soil and things like that because of a fair that was going on in town.

So since this morning I’ve started coughing again, have a little bit of a headache, things like that, as since the controlled release we’ve had, my whole family has had all kinds of symptoms, headaches, our throats have been sore, itchy eyes, burning eyes, congestion, vomiting, diarrhea, all kinds of stuff. And I’m afraid when my kid goes outside to play, I don’t know if he’s playing in contaminated grass. We don’t go to the park that we used to go to anymore because it’s in East Palestine. Even going to parks around where I’m at, we don’t really go there anymore because every time I go around places, even in the area, I end up getting a headache. Coughing makes it hard to breathe, especially when it’s hot or out. But ever since then, life has really changed.

Maximillian Alvarez:

And I Christina, before I move on, I meant to ask if you could just, I was very grateful to you, Kayla and Ashley for spending so much time with me on that podcast recording that we did, and I was also really glad that we got a chance to talk a little bit about what life was like for you all before the derailment and not defining you and your family and your communities by just this awful thing that has happened to you. I was wondering, before we move on, if you could just say a little bit about your life and roots there near East Palestine.

Christina Siceloff:

So I grew up in this area. My parents got divorced when I was really little, so my dad’s lived in the same house for the last 40 years, but my mom and I have a brother and myself. We moved to another neighboring town and I grew up there most of my life. And then in 2010 I think it was, I moved back here. Since then, I’ve lived in this area and never wanted to leave this area. I consider, well the area I’m near, I consider Pittsburgh my home. It’s all I’ve ever known. And now it’s like since the derailment has happened, you don’t want to leave, but you kind of feel forced to because if you stay, are you going to continue being sick forever? I also wanted to raise my kid here because I really liked the area. I liked that he can go outside and explore. He has always played up at the park in East Palestine, and I like the people in East Palestine too. They’re nice people, they’re welcoming people. You go to the park and people will share their life story with you. So now everybody you talk to, it’s you end up sharing your story of the derailment, not just your life story. But

I don’t know if I want to continue to stay here yet because I feel like it would be safer to leave for my kids’ sake.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Jesus, I’m just, I’m going to say it a billion times over the course of this live stream, but I’m just so incredibly sorry that y’all are going through this and that you don’t deserve this goes without saying, but needs to be said anyway. And I’m really excited to see other familiar faces on this live stream as well as new faces. And I’m grateful to all of you for making time for joining this livestream and sharing your stories with our audience and letting them know what you’re going through and what they can do to help. And so before we go to Kayla, who y’all also heard on that recent Working People podcast episode, I see we got Stella on the line. And Stella, I wanted to bring you in here. First of all, hello, great to meet you in person, but wanted to thank you for joining us on the live stream and ask if you could pick up kind of where Christina left off in about five minutes. If you could tell us a bit about yourself and your life and roots in East Palestine, your kind of experience of the derailment and what life has been like for you in the nearly four months since then,

Stella Gamble:

Or the area, the surrounding area. Most of my life, the house we live in was my husband’s family for three generations. I have nine granddaughters and I have three foster children and I have a daughter that’s a disabled veteran that still lives at home. And our house was always the center of the holidays. All the birthday parties, we have a backyard pool and everybody went swimming and when there were any problems, the grandchildren always knew that they had a home and they had a place to go. And after this derailment, I get violently ill if I’m in town now, it’s as little as 15 minutes that I’m in there. I start to feel my arms tangled. I get very dizzy and lethargic and confused and I get diarrhea. I get really bad headaches and two of my foster kids get headaches and nose bleeds. Now it doesn’t affect my husband the same way that it affects me. And he goes into town and takes care of the animals and takes care of the lawn and so on. And he tells me all the irises are up or you should see the rhubarb. I don’t know whether we should eat it or not.

We can’t go home and my grandkids can’t come there. One Memorial Day this year, we always have a big party and a big picnic in our backyard. We’ve got one daughter living in Lisbon and one’s living in East Liverpool and we’re in Hanover 10. And it was like, where are we going to go to have a picnic? Should we go to a state park somewhere? Not our whole lives have been completely uprooted. And the worst part about it is that we don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to go home. They told us that once they dug up this chemical pit where they had burnt those chemicals and once they dug up the toxic soil along the tracks that the air would be better and there wouldn’t be any dust and everything would be safe to go home. There’s 240 tons of that stuff piled up in East Palestine.

It’s two stories high and a mile long. They have to load all of that. And now they just came out with the E P A reported, they found 11 roll off containers full of asbestos that they have to dispose of. It’s not going to be safe for a while. They’re still polluting the water. There was a video taken yesterday, Rick Cha, a doctor from East Palestine, went out and took a video of the creeks. They are completely, the whole top of them is covered in chemicals. It’s not cleaned up and is it ever going to be cleaned up? We don’t know. So until then, we just have to live one day at a time and stay in hotels. And we rented a house. The house was rented. We could rent it for the whole month all except for one week because it was already rented. So we had to pack up all the kids and all the stuff and move to a hotel for a week. Then you have to pack up and move back again. Or you’re in the hotel and Hey, you guys got to leave Saturday, we’re booked up on Saturdays. It’s an absolutely horrible existence. And the kids trying to drive them back and forth to school or trying to get ’em to do online school, just been a nightmare.

Maximillian Alvarez:

I mean, that’s genuinely, I don’t know, I can barely even wrap my head around this and what y’all are going through. And it is a nightmare.

Stella Gamble:

It’s United States of America and the worst part about it, and through all of this stuff in all of these months, the people from all around this country have sent us caravans of water. They’ve sent food, they’ve sent money, they’ve sent blankets, they’ve sent all this stuff. And you know what we’ve gotten from our state, federal and local government, not even a bottle of water. They, we’ve had some politicians come in and get their picture taken and then they leave. We have got not one thing from our government, not one bit of help, nothing at all. And this is the United States of America. We’re 4,500 poor people and we’re going to fight the 58 billion railroad. Not going to happen. It was the battle that was lost before we started it, but some of us still have to keep the fight on.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Yeah, that’s really powerfully put. So before we move on, because Kayla, I want to bring you in here in a sec, but as I mentioned when I got to record that podcast with Kayla, Christina and Ashley, they each gave it started by each of them kind of giving their own account of the night of the derailment. And I just wanted to ask, since we’ve got you, if you wanted to share your experience of that terrible night with viewers and listeners.

Stella Gamble:

Well, the night of the derailment, I was in bed and my husband called me downstairs and he said, look over there. He said, something’s going on and you could see the flames from our porch. And so of course we got on social media and then we heard on the news that there was an evacuation. They wanted everybody to evacuate their homes and go to the high school, the high school’s, two or three blocks from where we live. So he’s getting the foster kids and the granddaughters gathered up and he said, come on. He said, we’re going to evacuate. And I said, well, I’m not going anywhere. And he said, what do you mean? He said, we have to evacuate. And I said, would you please explain to me how the air at the high school that’s two and a half blocks away is any different than it is in our house?

So the next day they evacuated the town and we went to a hotel, and one of the things that’ll always stick in my mind is my granddaughters were talking with one of their friends, they’re 14 years old. And I said, well, where we were in the hotel room, we’re laying on the bed munching and talking. And I said, where did she go? And they said, well, grandma, she didn’t go anywhere. Her dad made her go to the attic. And I said, what do you mean she didn’t go anywhere? And she said, well, he didn’t get his paycheck yet, and he didn’t have enough gas to leave town and didn’t have any money to go anywhere. If he did get out of town, they evacuated that town. But how many other people, I mean, that’s part of Appalachia, that’s a poor area that the towns poor.

Their average incomes like $29,000 a year. How many other people didn’t have the gas to get their kid or their kids or themselves out of that town? How many old people, elderly people, I mean, I’m old myself, but I’m just saying how many elderly people that didn’t have transportation or didn’t have a way out, they didn’t bring a bus around and say, Hey, if you don’t have a car or if you don’t have gas money or if you don’t have any family to help you, we’re here to help you out. They put that evacuation order up and that was it. And that little girl to this day is still, she’s probably a thousand feet from where that train railed. And she talks to my daughters all the time about how sick her cat is. And she’s been exposed to that since day one. Never had a break from it. And every day of my life, I wonder how many other kids, kids are there that the same thing happened and they’re still being exposed. She didn’t have enough gas. He didn’t have enough gas to get her out to town.

Maximillian Alvarez:

It’s not often, I mean, folks who watch this network know that I talk a lot. I always have a lot to say, I’m genuinely at a loss for words and I can’t forgive any of these companies or entities for what they’ve done to you and your neighbors. I don’t know if it’s, I’m overwhelmed with sadness and heartbreak or rage or both. But again, I wanted to remind everyone that if you join the live stream after my introduction, I will remind folks periodically through this stream that we have included a list of links to fundraisers and donation drives in the description for the video that you’re watching right now on YouTube. So if you click on the description of this video, you will find those various fundraisers and donation drive links. So please give whatever you can spread the word however you can, as we say all the time here at The Real News, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

So please do something. And Kayla, I’m great to see you again. I wish we were seeing each other under less horrifying circumstances, but I wanted to bring you in here. And then Matt, I’m I’m going to bring you in after that. So yeah, I guess for folks who haven’t had a chance to listen to that podcast episode that we all did together, I was wondering if you could take a few minutes to introduce yourself to the folks watching say a bit about your life and roots in the East Palestine area, your experience of the derailment on February 3rd, and what life has been like for you and your family in the months since.

Kayla Miller:

Well, my name’s Kayla Miller. I live three and a half miles from the derailment in Negley, Ohio. I have a homestead. I have three young children who I’m raising here. I was born and raised here. I know every road in the county. I know just about everybody around here. I make my money off of my land. I live off my land. And that’s not happening right now. And it’s a huge blow and I’m going to apologize in advance. Cause today has been a really hard day. I’m getting tired. This is the hardest fight I’ve ever had to deal with my entire life.

That’s why I apologized The night of the derailment, I heard it through social media because the emergency response to the public was subpar. That’s how most of us found out was through word of mouth from people firsthand experiencing it. So I heard about it on social media and one of my friends who was staying with me at the time, we jumped in his car and we drove up to see what was going on. He works at one of the stores close by and he just wanted to make sure that the store was okay because he helped run it. So we went up there and it was terrifying. It was absolutely terrifying. The flames were massive. Everything looked like it was on fire. The smell took your breath away. And at the time we didn’t know that there was chemicals. If we would’ve known, we would’ve never have went.

Not a million years. We just assumed that it was a derailment. Things catch fire. And there was also word that they had crashed into one of our local gas station storage tanks. And we kind of assumed that that was from, but once I smelt that smell, I knew something was drastically wrong. And we did end up getting out of there pretty quickly after that. And it was utter chaos. There was firetrucks flying everywhere. It didn’t seem like they knew what they were doing. And now that we found out, they really didn’t know what they were doing. It was utter, utter chaos. There have been text messages now put in the public eye that our fire chief literally was told to treat it like a house fire and he had to sit back and just watch it burn. That’s the extent of the organization that night.

I still have not got my results back from my first well test from the health Department and Norfolk Southern, they took those tests on April 17th. Now granted, they did try to take my tests. I think it was the beginning of March because I am in the zone for the well testing because I live right beside Decontaminated Creek, Leslie Run. So I have been offered the well testing, have not received my first round. They’ve already scheduled me for my second round, but yet I still haven’t received the first round. They are refusing to give us soil samples down here, and not everybody in my town is getting the well, the well testing. It’s only the people that live close to the creek. And it’s extremely frustrating because these chemicals, they don’t know boundaries. They don’t know that what their zones are that they’re allowed to go in and where they’re not like this stuff’s everywhere and these chemicals are bioaccumulative, so it’s only going to get worse. I have fought for 13 years to get the life that I have now. My life is pretty good. And I feel like that night in an instance, it got ripped away.

The life that I wanted for my kids could very well be gone because we may have to leave. My kids have been sick since this happened off and on. Same thing that Christina was talking about. Diarrhea, fever, vomiting, respiratory. It’s ongoing and it’s exhausting. I’m normally pretty good with these interviews, but like I said, today has been a hard day. I’ve kind of had to unplug because it gets overwhelming.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Oh, Jesus. I mean, I remember remarking when we were recording that podcast together, I said, I don’t know how you guys are all holding it together. And you guys admitted to me, you’re like, it comes in waves, man, some days I can hold it together. Other days. I can’t mean you’re a human being who doesn’t deserve this. And I mean, thank you. I want to thank you for sharing with us even though you are feeling this way. And I’m so incredibly sorry for everything that has happened to you. And of course, if at any point you need to exit the call, we will continue to plug the fundraiser, which y’all can find for Kayla’s family. In the description for this YouTube video, you can also find information about how to donate supplies like bottled water to suit Mama official, whom Kayla works closely. Kayla, Kayla is deeply involved in that. And there is a new shipment of supplies coming to East Palestine on June 3rd. So if you want to contribute to that donation drive, again, there’s a link in the description of this video that’ll show you how to do that. And I guess I want to make a plea to everyone watching that.

Don’t just watch this and feel bad and close the window because I remember Marcus Derby union worker, who was on strike through most of last year, who we also had on a livestream here at The Real News a few months ago that was a strike at C N H Industrial in Iowa. Something Marcus said always stuck with me where he said it was in the dead of winter in December, I believe, when we had that cold snap in the Midwest and it was bitterly cold. And Marcus and his coworkers were still out on the picket line on strike. And he said to the people watching the stream, and to me, he said, look, when this live stream is over, this is still my life. I’m still on strike.

Take that for what it is. But please understand that if you get to go home and rest easily and not worry about where your next meal’s coming from or whether or not your kids can play in the grass without being poisoned, just don’t take that for granted. And don’t forget that this is what everyone over there in and around East Palestine is going through. So do whatever you can to donate to their fundraisers to spread the word about their fundraisers. If you yourself can’t donate, send it to 10 people and mobilize your community to contribute whatever you can to get the folks of East Palestine and the surrounding area what they desperately need. And again, the links where you can donate are in the description of the video here. We’re going to go around the table again in a few minutes to talk about that side of things, the mutual aid side, what has been done on the ground, what folks there on the ground need most of all.

But I also wanted to impress upon everyone that these stories, this pain, this heartbreak, this unforgivable catastrophe, this avoidable catastrophe, this didn’t just happen. This isn’t just some freak accident that tragically be fell a town in Ohio. If you watched and listened to our relentless coverage of the crisis on the freight railroads last year here at The Real News, if you watched and listened to and read our interview after interview after interview with railroad workers, that this was avoidable and who’s responsible for this? Because railroad workers warned us that something like this was inevitable. If the greedy practices of the rail carriers and their Wall Street shareholders were not reigned in if they’re bought off lackeys in the government, didn’t start doing their goddamn jobs, pardon my language, and regulate these companies the way that they should put an end to their greedy practices that are sucking all of the profits generated by railroad workers.

And instead of reinvesting that into essential safety measures, track maintenance, more people checking the cars and checking the track, more people manning those trains, making sure those trains are not nearly as long carrying as many hazardous materials as they are today. All of this stuff contributed to the catastrophe in East Powells theme. And then we have five more derailments the next week. The derailments are still happening. They’re just not as horrible as the one that happened on February 3rd. When I was recording that podcast with Christina, Ashley and Kayla, another derailment in their area had just happened. Another rail car was on fire and I almost lost my shit. And so I say all that because I want to bring in a familiar face to real news viewers, the great Matt Weaver who is a longtime with the brotherhood of maintenance and way employees. Matt is also working with Railroad Workers United.

Matt was the first person that I interviewed after the Norfolk Southern derailment in a sort of reactive podcast. So what the hell is happening and how does this connect back to everything we’ve been talking about with railroad workers over the past year and a half? So Matt, I want to bring you in here. So obviously you’re not living in East Palestine, but you are in Ohio. You are the legislative rep for your union in the State House there. You’ve worked on the railroads for many years. I wanted to ask if you could first introduce yourself or reintroduce yourself to the Real news viewers and listeners talk, remind them a little bit. We don’t have to go into the whole thing because we don’t have that much time, but remind them a little bit about all the crap we were talking about on the railroads last year and how that was all playing in your mind when you were watching the catastrophe in East Palestine. What should folks see in that catastrophe that you see as a veteran?

Kayla Miller:

Well, thanks again Max for the opportunity to join you. And my heart goes out to all the ladies who’ve spoken and we’ve heard the personal problems they’ve had. It’s really terrible. So my name is Matt Weaver. I have been working for the railroad 28 and a half years. I hired on in 1994, and I usually don’t say the name of my employer because whistleblower retaliation is alive and well in the industry. So I have been vocal and active legislatively and contractually. So I’ve filed enough grievances to get our guys nearly 5 million for contract violations. And right after the derailment I headed over to East Palestine and was there for the town hall where Erin Brockovich was, and I got to meet with her in the middle of it. And we’ve been talking about our workers there who also were on the job site with leather gloves in these chemicals.

And all along, I mean when we first talked, I had asked you if you had known why they collected all of this in a line ditch and why did they light it on fire instead of TA putting in tanks. And now we see the EPA last week saying, oh, we didn’t allow that. Or they’re the finger pointings beginning and everyone’s getting lawyers now. And it’s like, boy, oh boy, this doesn’t sound good for the residents, the people in the area. And especially when you talk about the dioxins that were created when it went and they all went downwind. So there’s a lot of people that are contaminated with this stuff and we need to know more, so we need good answers. I’m surprised hearing the young lady who said she hasn’t got testing back from April, what’s that all about? How is that a just and genuine response to take care of people?

Yeah, so our members, brotherhood of maintenance way, employees division of the Teamsters, build and maintain America’s railroad track, bridges and buildings. Currently, I’m a carpenter foreman. I was actually painting today. We put new replacement windows in that kind of stuff. But I’ve been on all the track and bridge b and b jobs on my railroad, and we’ve seen a lot of, as a result of precision scheduled railroading, the Hunter Harrison, bless his heart business mantra of Do more with less. And now really it’s do less with less because we’re not moving as much freight as we used to. There’s lot call it the economy, call it whatever. But I would have a good conversation with you about the railroads being a great cause of this inflation. We’re seeing profit margins, stock buybacks instead of reinvesting in infrastructure. Rail labor is down 30% in the last decade, and we’re seeing a tremendous, like I said, railroad workers

We predicted this was like, if you’re not fixing it, it it’s bandaids on broken legs and something bad is going to happen. And with this round of bargaining, we saw that where we had terrible attendance policies continue to be the status quo. Engineers and conductors have terrible work hours on call and no defined time off and stuff like that. It’s gotten better most recently after the contract was stuffed on our throats. But in general, it’s a rough road. Ahoe being a railroad worker, I mean, sure the pay is decent, but these days our pay increases haven’t kept up with inflation and there is no cost of living in our contracts. So the people have really seen with your help, the voice of rail labor and the problems we’re facing right now, and really it’s all of the working class and we need to express that it’s class conflict in America, and it’s not union or non-union. The working class being devastated by the donor class. They’re pulling all the strings on the politicians through campaign finance and lobbying, and our voice is muffled out, you’re, how much is your vote worth when they’re throwing millions of dollars at politicians? It’s very frustrating.

Maximillian Alvarez:

You know, said something to me, Matt, when we recorded that podcast in the immediate wake of the derailment in East Palestine on February 3rd. I mean, you and I got on the horn maybe three, four days after that. And you said something to that effect that also really stuck with me where you said, these trains, these three mile long trains carrying just hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic materials and so on and so forth. They’re not passing through the backyards of the rich enclaves in this country. They are going through our towns. I mean there, there’s the CSX terminal here in Baltimore. The entire surrounding area is a sacrifice zone. They’ve had explosions there, they’ve poisoned residents. This is happening in poor and working class communities. It’s your roads that are being stopped up with these massive trains that make you late for work. It is your neighborhoods.

We heard on this live stream, people who lived a thousand feet away from the crash site. Is that happening to Warren Buffet? Who owns BNSF Railway? Is that happening to Joseph r Biden, Donald J. Trump? No, it’s not happening to them. It’s happening to us. Meanwhile, they are the ones making mad Bank off of all of this. They are the ones on the industry side, cutting the workforce year after year after year, making these trains less safe because it’s more profitable for them driving workers into the ground, making them more tired, fatigued, not giving them paid sick days, not letting them see their families. That’s obviously going to have an impact on the quality of service. Whether that means that more people, as we have been seeing and reporting on more people are leaving the industry, even if they’ve accrued 10, 15 or more years of seniority and retirement benefits, they can’t take it anymore.

And so think of that brain drain, all that accrued knowledge and skill that is leaving the railroads, all of the infrastructure that is being left to rot. And we’re being told that like, oh, we could just sort of replace those human beings with some technological detectors that’ll let us know. And when there’s a problem, well, those hot box detectors detected a problem as this train was careening towards East Palestine. And look what happened, it still caused this catastrophe. So you guys have heard me scream and yell about the railroads many, many times before. So I promise our other livestream guests that I’m not going to do it more now, but I just wanted y’all to remember that anger and frustration and that righteous anger that we all felt last year when Matt and his brothers and sisters and siblings across the different unions representing over a hundred thousand workers on the freight rail system, were fighting tooth and nail to get what they deserve.

To stop this madness, this Wall Street led madness that has destroyed our supply chain, that has destroyed the workers who make it run all for the sake of their bottom line. I want you to take that anger, harness that anger, and fuse it with the heartbreak and anger and pain that you are feeling for and with the residents of East Palestine in the surrounding area. Because again, as a class, like Matt said, as a class of poor working people, people who care about one another, people who are not in the order giving class, but we are in the order taking class, it is our job to band together and stand up against this and to reach out and to build those bonds of solidarity between the railroad workers, the residents, the other people working and living in the area and beyond. So I’m why, I’m really, really grateful to have Matt on this live stream with us. And please, as he said, go to Railroad Workers United, follow them on social media, subscribe to their newsletter because that is where you’re going to get the best and most important information about what’s going on on the railroads and how you yourself can be part of the solution that they are fighting for. Matt, go for it. And then I’ll, I at one

Matt Weaver:

Point that I have to make it, to me, it’s really obvious. We don’t want these chemicals and these materials on the highways, and we can’t have a different pipeline for every different chemical individually a grid across America. So we want it on the rail, but we want this industry to regulate it better, to do a better job, make it safer, and take care of the people whose backyards they’re, they’re hauling this dangerous stuff through.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Well, and that is a great segue to our next incredible guest, Ashley, who’s also a member of the East Palestine Unity Council and who, if y’all listened to that working people episode that we published two weeks ago, Ashley was one of the voices that you heard on that podcast. Ashley, I believe it was you who said something during that podcast like that you had a friend who worked for the railroads who was like, you need to get out. I know what’s on those cars. You need to get out. So again, just kind of connect or is that Kayla? Oh, bye Kayla, thank you so much for joining us. And oh no, that was you. Sorry you guys can’t see me. I can see all of them, but that was Kayla whose friend worked on the railroads and said, you got to get the hell out because I know what’s on those trains.

So apologies for that. So Ashley, I want to bring you in here and first of all, thank you for joining us. I know you are incredibly busy and you got a lot going on and you guys are living through hell right now. What we were doing kind of in the first round of this live stream was going around taking about five minutes each. And just for folks who didn’t listen to that podcast and are just learning about a lot of this through this live stream, I was wondering if you could say, introduce yourself and say a little bit about your life and roots in East Palace theme. Talk to us a bit about your experience of the derailment and what life has been like for you and your family in the months after.

Ashley McCollum:

Well, I’m Ashley McCollum. I’ve lived in East Palestine for eight years. My experience overall before this happened was it was a nice close-knit kind of town. No one ever had to worry about anything. You never had to lock your doors, you had no fear at all. And then the derailment happened, and now our new fear that out of everything that you could think of is, am I going to have some kind of chemical exposure that’s going to cause my death or my family’s, or am I going to get cancer or is my home not clean good enough? Am I ever going to be able to go back?

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and just everything that has went on from the time of the derailment to this point, there’s been so many flaws and the way things are done, the way things are being tested, it’s just astonishing or astonishing, what we’re really being subject to and the lack of care with how it’s being done and handled and continues to be handled. I mean, we don’t want to place blame and say, well, you should have did this. You should have did that. That’s not what we want to do. We just want to start living and have our lives back.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Well, and could you say a little bit about the night of the derailment, Ashley, because you also live very close to where the train derailed.

Ashley McCollum:

Just a normal Friday, I got done babysitting for a friend. We were kind of having the wine down. Me and my son were just hanging out. I had laundry. I was folding and getting things done. We sat down on the couch and a couple minutes later we hear sirens, which is odd for that time of night in the town, hear another round of sirens. Me and my son both jump up, we look out the front door, there’s nothing out there. We look out the back door. Soon as I open the back door, everything was lit up. It looked like the entire town was on fire. It looked like it wrapped all the way around. It was terrifying. My son started to panic, what do we do? What do we do? I said, grab what you need. Okay. So I got down to his level and I said, we’re going to leave what you want to take. So whenever he grabbed what he wanted, I wrangled up the animals. I got the car up front, called my mom, and I said, mom, I think the town’s on fire. You need to get here now to help me so I can get the rest of the animals. She came back or she came to my house and I had moved other cars because I figured if anything, maybe that would stop some more explosions happening, if that’s the case.

Everyone started to show up outside and I told people we’re going to have to evacuate. Another person said, I don’t think we’re going to have to evacuate. And I said, I think we will. And right after I said that, here comes a man telling everyone on my road, evacuate, leave. We all have to leave. So my son’s still kind of panicking and still worried about what’s going to happen. My mom called me down, we started to go and I stopped at a neighbor’s house in the corner and I asked her, I said, could you please let me know if my house catches on fire? Please let me know if it’s gone or not. And she said, I will. And right at that time, another person came and said, you have to leave too. Everything was on fire. It smelled like chemicals. It didn’t smell like a normal fire.

So we left and couldn’t sleep that night. And when my son did sleep, he was having nightmares for weeks. I probably only slept for about four hours, maybe three hours here and there. I would wake up to my son crying, saying, no, no, no. And it, it’s like a reoccurring thing. Anytime he hears something that sounds like a siren or an older style alarm clock, he panics. He’s like, mom, what do I take now? And it was unfortunate. One of the hotels we stayed at did have an alarm go off where their elevator caught on fire. He started screaming, what do I take mom? And I said, we don’t take anything. We take us because if this happens again, at least we have each other because at this point we have nothing. And I even looked at my house the last day I was there living in my home, and I looked at it and I really thought, it’s not going to be there. It’s not going to be there. It’s going to catch on fire and we’re not going to have anything. So I just started to accept that. And it still feels the same. I can’t be in my house, I can’t go to my house. I can’t remove things from my house. And I feel like that’s even more mental anguish because I don’t know what to do or where to go.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Well again, we’re at an hour with the live stream now. We’ve got 30 minutes left. And y’all have heard from every one of our incredible guests so far, you’ve heard about their experience of or their understanding of the derailment. Yes. And you’ve heard about what they’ve been going through ever since that, right? There are going to be a lot of other questions and stories that we’re not going to necessarily be able to address here. There’s a big tangled mess of who’s calling the shots. Is it Norfolk Southern? Is it the epa? Is it the local EPAs? Is it the governor? Like who’s making the determinations on who gets the money to pay for their hotels while they’re waiting months to get their water tests back? Just all this crap that these people have to deal with now because of the corporate malfeasance and government negligence that created this catastrophe.

I don’t want to keep squeezing these people for their horror stories. I hope that we’ve communicated enough to you guys how serious this is and how much pain they’re going through and why we all need to care about it. And I wanted to use the final 30 minutes to really focus on what we all as fellow working people, as the working class community that needs to protect itself. What we can do to better support our brothers, sisters, and siblings living in and around East Palestine. And to lift up the efforts that have been allowing people to stay afloat, right? Because amidst this tragedy, there have been people banding together, like the incredible folks on this call, forming the Unity Council, using social media to exchange information, to let folks know who needs what and where to try to raise awareness by doing interviews like these and getting these stories out there.

And so I know that folks tuning in right now, they want to help. Once again, I want to remind everyone here at the top of the hour that we have collected a list of links to different GoFundMe fundraisers. We’ve included information about how you can donate to the individual and family funds of the folks on this call, as well as general funds like the one East Palestine off the rails organized by Rick Si, who you heard about earlier in this stream. That is a general GoFundMe that has been sent to us through the East Palestine Unity Council. It’s vetted. You guys can donate there. There’s the soup Mama official supplies drive on June 3rd, there’s going to be another shipment made to the folks living in and around East Palestine. So if you are able to donate the basic supplies that are being collected, including an especially bottled water, you can donate there.

I want to bring our incredible panel back on and just for me to take a step back, we’ll start, we’ll go in the order that we went in before. So Christina and then Stella, then Kayla, Matt and Ashley, and then we’ll close out. But I just wanted to ask if y’all could take a few minutes to talk about the aid that you have received or not received. Again, from the government, from Norfolk Southern, from your community, from people around the country. And you know, can talk directly to our audience right now, they’re there, they’re watching. Can you tell them what you need and where they can go to help contribute to these mutual aid efforts? So Christina, let’s start back with you.

Christina Siceloff:

People in Pennsylvania have not really received much aid at all from Norfolk. So well, we haven’t received aid from Norfolk Southern. If you’re outside one or two miles, they don’t really acknowledge you at all. And same with the government. I’ve even called the government PA for water testing and such. They won’t do any testing here. Any testing I’ve had done was through independent researchers. Dr. Welton from Purdue has done a lot of independent testing around the area.

Water donations that I have received have been from Dr. Rick Chai in with the East Palestine off the Rails group, as well as Soup Mama official. And at the beginning I was able to get some donations for water from placing up in East Palestine. But we still need water. We don’t know when our water will go bad or if it is bad if we haven’t had any testing done. Dr. Chai is taking donations for water as well as for relocation. He’s, him and his wife have done really well at helping one person already. Every $10,000 they raised, they help a family move out area. But that’s all the places I’ve received donations. But the government and Norfolk Southern have not helped Pennsylvania.

Maximillian Alvarez:

And I guess, Christina, in case we don’t get a chance to, before the end of the stream, did you have any final words that you wanted to share with folks out there watching and listening?

Christina Siceloff:

Don’t forget about us. Keep sharing our stories. Keep pushing our governments to our government officials here in PA and Ohio, both to help us and especially reach out to Governor Mike DeWine and ask for him to, or pressure him to declare a Emerge emergency in Ohio. Because if he declares an emergency, then it opens up doors for our governor to do the same.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Thank you so much, Christina and Stella, I want to bring you back in here and ask if you could pick up as well and tell us a bit about what aid you have received or not received from the government, from Norfolk Southern, from people around the country and what folks can do to help you, your family and your neighbors. Oh, you might be muted, Stella. Sorry.

Stella Gamble:

Okay. We were stuckey to be able that we lived inside the one mile area. This one mile area was originally set up by Norfolk Southern in the E P A, because they said if the trains ex

Would probably go that far. So they set up this one mile zone in the beginning of this disaster. Well, since then they have used the one mile zone as reference to who the railroad would help relocate. And they have helped us with our hotel bills and because we live in that one mile zone, but all of the people who live outside the one mile zone, and there are people on one side of the street who are in the one mile zone and people on the other side of the street that they can’t get any help at all. And there are a lot of people who are sick. There are a lot of people whose kids are sick and they want to leave. They want to relocate either permanently or temporarily, and they don’t have the money to do it. So Rick Cha and his wife Tammy have started a GoFundMe and they have already helped one family and they are helping others.

And I also would like people urge people to contact Governor Dew Wine’s office and put some pressure on him. He has till the end of July to declare a state of emergency. Thus far, he hasn’t done it. And if this isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is. But we’ve received no help from the government. And if you don’t live inside that one mile, then you have to keep your kids there. You have to stay there. No recourse. There’s nobody there to help you. So I would urge people to donate and to off the rails and help people get out that need out.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Did you have any, I guess, final general words you also wanted to share with people watching and listening? Stella, before

Stella Gamble:

We, well, I guess I’m almost 70 years old and what happens to me in the next 10 to 20 years is kind of irrelevant. I’m my life’s times pretty much over anyway, but these kids

That have been allowed to live in this and have been told that everything was safe, that leaks that are breathing these toxic chemicals, they’re the ones who 10 years from now are going to pay the price for what is happening to us now. I guess, like I said, I don’t have much hope for what’s going to happen because it, it’s he who has the most money wins and they definitely have the most money already. The media has already lost interest in East Palestine. Nobody’s coming to help us. I tell people all the time, pray because God’s the only one that’s going to help you. And if we could get a few of these people out, a few these families out, that would be a wonderful, wonderful thing. So like I said, off the rails, Rick and Tammy are doing a great job. They’re trustworthy. That’s a big issue too. I mean, a lot of these GoFundMe and a lot of the things that happened at the beginning of this, the people of these Palestine never saw that money. We never saw any of that money that was donated. The money that goes to off the rails, that money will go to the people

And I would like Thank you for keeping us in the news.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Thank you, Stella. That’s truly the least we can do. And thank you so much for taking time to share your story with us. And Kayla, I wanted to bring you in here as well. And same prompt. Tell us a little bit about the support you’re getting, not getting and what your neighbors, your family need, what folks can do to help contribute.

Kayla Miller:

For me, like I said, I’m in the three and a half mile mark. So as far as any kind of money that some people have access to, I don’t have that. I was not reimbursed for evacuating, even though I did take my kids in as many animals as I could, did not receive anything for that. As far as donations and everything, we’ve had a bunch of people come in with donating from across the country. That’s actually how I got involved with Sup Mama. They are an amazing group of patriots that genuinely care about our country and the people that are in it. And they said from the beginning that they’re going to be here till the end and they’ve stuck to their word and we’re going to be doing our supply drop on June 3rd. We are in desperate need of water because it’s becoming a very thin, thin thing around here. And there’s still people like myself who haven’t got their test results back and we were told not to drink the water until we do. That can get very expensive, very fast. So water is a huge thing. Funding to get some families out of here, that’s great. Me, I don’t have that option.

I have too much family, too many friends. My husband works out of town. I have to have a support system. I can’t just pick up and leave. I have three kids on my own basically. So for me to leave is just emotionally it would not be doable. So I am stuck here. So the biggest thing for me is if there is money that needs to be donated, that somebody’s willing to donate it to. Obviously the rails for people that do want to relocate, but there’s also families that have their own GoFundMe and that will help with trying to get water filtration systems because they’re not cheap. You can get under the sink ones, but that’s just for drinking water. That’s not for your washer, that’s not for washing dishes and your dishwasher for baths, for showers, those systems are very expensive and all of us can’t afford that. So that money goes towards that and it would help drastically with a lot of us.

Like I said, the testing, they will not give us soil testing out here. Even though I’m close enough for my will to be tested, they won’t test my soil. It makes perfect sense. So I did get independent testing and I’m waiting on those results to come back and that’s going to kind of tell me where I go from here. Mean obviously if it gets to a point where we continue to be sick, we’re going to have to do some sort of change. What that is, I don’t know yet. And that’s what a lot of this is. A lot of it is unknown. We don’t know, keep pressing. Our government officials, just like Christina and Stella said, they have to declare the state of emergency for us to even have a hope of continuing with life. How it was even in an inkling of how it was this has to be done and they’re not wanting, they’re not willing to do it and it’s very frustrating. But people outside keep pressing or pressing our officials. And if you can donate to the organizations that you listed.

Maximillian Alvarez:

And Kayla, just before I move on, the link that we sent that directs people to suit Mama official includes a number of different, I think there’s some QR codes that people can scan so that they know they can donate on Cash app, PayPal, all that good stuff. There’s also an email address on one of those flyers that we linked to for suit Mama official. Would you say that that right now, since the next supply drop is happening on the third, would the best thing for people to do through Suit Mama official, would it be to donate funds for them to procure the water ahead of that June 3rd drop off?

Kayla Miller:

Logistic wise, probably, yeah, because we are coming up super close here, it’s this weekend, but we can still, if somebody’s wanting, there’s different, if they get on our social media pages, you can find on their different drop locations. So if you have a drop location near you, you can drop it there or you can direct drop. There’s addresses on our post on the social media sites that tells you where you can direct drop straight into East Palestine.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Beautiful. Thank you so much Kayla. And a reminder to everyone, because this’ll probably be one of the last times you hear from me on the stream along with the info to suit Mama official Rick Chai and the East Palestinian off the Rails, general GoFundMe for families who are trying to relocate. You will also find individual GoFundMe as well as cash app information for Kayla Ashley and Christina. Ashley, I want to close, want to round out with you. So before we get there, Matt, I wanted to bring you in here. And again, I want us to be thinking about the struggle of the residents in and around East Palestine in direct conversation with the ongoing struggle of our fellow workers in the railroads. Because Lord knows after Biden prevented y’all from striking, Congress forced a deal down your throat that happened before East Palestine. So the problems that were problems on the railroads did not get solved in the last contract negotiations and catastrophes like East Palestine and the billion other derailments we’ve seen this year, so on and so forth. That’s all downstream from that. So I wanted to ask Matt, if you could hop in here and if you had any final words that you wanted to say to folks about the state of the struggle of railroad workers, what folks can do to continue to support you all, and the role that a stronger unionized workforce on the railroads plays in ensuring that catastrophes, the one that is befallen East Palestine and the surrounding areas never happens again.

Kayla Miller:

Well, I think, like you said, I believe it’s the idea of that it’s working class people who are being affected by this the most. And I would like to agree with everyone who spoke before me. Call your representatives, be in contact. Good communication and networking is a powerful tool. Vote, get out and vote. Be vocal and active because that’s what we have. We don’t have millions of dollars for lobbying. We don’t have some politicians in our back pocket. We, we’ve got to stand up and be noisy about the vote. I think that the ladies have said we, we’ve got to think of be my brother’s keeper, take care of your neighbors. We’ve got to do better. And the idea that the railroads, the industry is so in depth, involved in taking care of the shareholders, it’s not taking care of the community. This industry was chartered as a service for the American people and it’s been twisted to be a service for only the shareholders. And America’s really suffering because of this.

Maximillian Alvarez:

And of course everyone should go to railroad workers If you’ve been checking out Matt’s great shirt, keep up to date, keep your ear to the rail. That is definitely your best source to know what’s going on across the different craft unions and getting the real on the ground perspective, the worker’s perspective on what’s going on. The railroads. Yeah. Matt, please,

Matt Weaver:

One thing is that our workers that were on the ground for the derailment have had to get legal counsel not been taken care of, and they have all gotten legal counsel, as you know, because of the injuries they’ve received and future damages that may happen that they don’t know what’s going to happen.

Maximillian Alvarez:

And will folks be able to get updates on that? You think through Railroad Workers United,

Matt Weaver:

I think that more, most likely the company will settle and it will have a requirement that people can’t talk about it. That’s how it works in the industry.

Maximillian Alvarez:

Yep. Yep. Love living in a plutocracy. Ashley, you were the first person I connected with and I wanted to make sure that I got this on the live stream because I really want to shout out the great Steve Mellon. Steve Mellon, as you guys know, is a longtime dedicated journalist out of Pittsburgh, who along with dozens of his coworkers, has been on strike at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette since October. And yet even as they have been dealing with their own struggle against a horrible corporate ownership of that paper that wants to destroy the unions that represent the workers there, that’s why they’re dragging the strikeout for so long. As these workers who we’ve had on the real news I’ve spoken to at breaking points, so on and so forth, we’ve heard from them about what they’re going through. And yet for all these months they’ve been on strike.

The journalists at the Post Gazette, the striking journalists have created a newspaper that they’re still producing for free while they’re on strike. And that’s how I connected to Ashley was because of Steve Mellon, who I interviewed on my show working people. And he was like, yeah, let me connect you to Ashley. I’ve been going down there and covering what’s been going on there. I was like, you got to be kidding me, you’re on strike. You know, guys are facing this incredible struggle of your own and they’re still going down there and doing great reporting. So everyone should go support the Pittsburgh Union progress, the strike paper put on by striking journalists at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Shout out to Steve Mellon. Thank you brother for connecting me to Ashley and in essence making this live stream possible. Now, Ashley, I wanted to close out with you and ask if you could just pick up where everyone else was leaving off. Talk a bit about the support you’ve gotten, haven’t been getting what you and your neighbors need, what folks can do to support y’all, and any final closing thoughts that you had for folks watching and listening.

Ashley McCollum:

Well, it’s kind of funny that it’s going into this and you’ve mentioned Steve Mellon and at the town hall where I actually met him, he approached me because I was expressing the need for the housing, the need for the clean housing. I’ve received help with lodging and food from the railroad, but they’ll only cover takeout food. It, it’s hard to find hotels, so if you spend too much on a hotel, they question you. It feels like you’re badgered a lot. And it’s very difficult to actually get the money without feeling guilty in some way, which we shouldn’t. We’re supposed to get travel as well as necessities covered some, do some within the mile, and I’m not going to sit there and fight with someone just because I need the travel or I need the necessities. So it’s kind of like being bullied just to have somewhere to stay because I don’t feel safe in my home. So, so far I’ve had that and really nothing else. I haven’t been back to my home, I haven’t been able to stay there. I can go in and get sick. And that’s it really the places that everyone else said to donate to. And there’s another way that they can donate water as well, which would be good for Kayla. And since there’s an email and a way to contact her, if anyone has a Sam’s Club account, they can actually order water ahead of time in a location close to us. And if they’re willing to and arrange it with them, they can pick up those cases of water.

But really what we need is a new home. It’s unfortunate. I don’t think I’ll ever get my home clean and I don’t think I’ll ever trust my son being okay in my home just because his dream is to have a family and to be a police officer. And if I go back there, I don’t think, I mean, I don’t know if he will be able to have kids or if I would have to worry that if he starts to think about it and want to have kids, that’s going to be on my mind. Are they going to be okay? Are they going to have birth defect forms, health problems? We don’t know. And I can’t expose my family to that, but myself and my boyfriend, we both have mortgages. They offered to give us a place to rent, but when they cut that off, am I going to be stuck with rent as well as two mortgages and I have to disclose what’s in my home and I’m not going to feel okay just selling a home without telling people I have independently tests. Here they are. I don’t want you to get sick because that’s the reason why I’m moving. But if you understand and you want to purchase it, fine,

But I don’t think I’m going to be able to sell my home being honest and open about it.

Maximillian Alvarez:

So there you have it. I have nothing to add to this. You guys have heard enough of me tonight. Please don’t forget about the people living in and around East Palestine. Don’t forget about the railroad workers, don’t forget about any of this. Don’t let the media politicians or Norfolk goddamn Southern sweep under the rug because as you’ve heard tonight, life for these people has been forever changed. And the least we could do is help them get to a safer place. Help them at least have safe water to drink, use our different platforms, use our voices to pressure public officials or raise a stink however we can to get the action that these folks are calling for, that these folks desperately need, that they are not getting. You’ve heard a million different ways tonight that you can help. So please do however you can. I want to really, really thank our incredible guests for taking time out of their hectic days to sit down and chat with us and share their stories with us and our viewers, even though it is incredibly painful to do so. So again, thank you so much to Ashley, to Kayla, to Stella, to Matt and Christina and thank you all so much for watching and thank you for caring. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other, solidarity forever.

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Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
Follow: @maximillian_alv