People are now dropping dead in the East Point.
What Does It Take?
by Darrell Hocker
The cover-up of our lifetime and perhaps the century is taking place on the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone wants to turn their head and just pretend it does not exist. I am here to tell you it has and does exist.
Florida has a record of looking the other way concerning pollution that began decades before the Gulf Oil Spill. Those who are looking now do not seem to understand what they are looking at. I have spent ten years trying to pry open peoples eyes to the potential effects of pollution. I have too often prostituted myself to reach that end. But enough is enough!
This is my story on my terms for my purposes. I doubt even this will open blind eyes and deaf ears because everyone ONLY cares about themselves and their little world.I want to share with you my little world and my own private hell on earth. A hell I was cast into unwillingly and through no fault of my own.
Yet, someone is to blame and carries the weight of inflicting unnecessary suffering on others. It is my belief all the deaf, dumb, and blind who only know their own little purposes and live in their own little lust and greedy desires are the usual suspects.These selfish and self serving individuals keep us chasing a tail we will never catch and distract us from any good with misinformation.
But while they indulge in their own dreams of self vindication and restitution so “they can have their lives back” the little unnoticed people are dealing with something else that consumes their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. As you will see I know well how this feels. I know how it feels for even those you have supported through thick and thin to leave you without support.
I know the desperation and need to be heard when no one is listening. Welcome to “my” world.In 2000 I first saw the entrance to the Sportsman’s Lodge in Eastpoint, Florida. It is and was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
Sonia and I truly thought we had walked into paradise. There we found work and lodging and a place we would come to call “home.” Having had experience in environmental issues I also began to notice the quality of water in the Indian Creek channel that ran through the property.There were strange odors and a consistency of the creek water that just was not right. Being a nature lover I began to walk the adjacent property and explore the lower end of the Indian Creek Basin.
But already having dealt with the politics of pollution and being badly burned I had no desire to go there again.But in December of 2002 I noticed one morning the owner of the Lodge Robert D. Allen (Bob) was upset and despondent. I inquired what was the matter and was shown an order delivered by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office demanding hook-up and impact fees. My response was they could not legally demand an “impact fee” as a water district.
So I jumped into the middle of a fight not my own. Unlike Bob Allen I was free to go or come as I pleased. I did not know or imagine this moment was going to consume and destroy any hope I had of a peaceful and normal life. Nor did I know this pollution was going to touch me personally in the worst way any person could be touched or tested.
Regardless, at that point I and Sonia began to work endless hours seven days a week to get the blind to see. We found the blindness and deafness to pollution was complete. We found everyone who should listen and regulate and took oath to do so were the blindest of them all. We have found that the ignoring of the ecological disaster now occurring in the Gulf is only the continuance of a pattern of heartless self interest.
No agency of State or Nation would hear or believe what we worked endlessly to show. Sewage was being dumped into the East Apalachicola Bay.In 2004 both Sonia and I got the surprise of both our lives. On January 6, 2004 at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital I was in the room with 4 people and then amazingly there was a miracle and there were 5 people in that room. Maria Franchesca Hocker was born kicking, crying, and by all examination perfectly healthy.
Neither of us had believed after being together four years we could have children. But, in that delivery room as I held my new born child my heart was gone and the full possession of that precious helpless body..
In 2005 we at last took a drive and a video camera up Indian Creek so everyone at last could see and hear the truth.We found plywood squares 500 feet below the Eastpoint Waste Water Treatment Plant blocking Indian Creek’s flow. We found pipes conveying sewage water from the plant into adjacent wetlands. 50 foot from the forty acre class c sewage sprayfield we found a large “borrow pit” with a ditch draining the water into Indian Creek.
These pictures and the video were sent to all responsible agencies state and federal. Guess what? No one saw or could figure out what such things meant. Dick Francher the head of FDEP enforcement sent a letter saying “He could not see the “borrow pit” we referred to.
But as predicted by Bob Allen in 2005 “Hurricane Dennis” flooded the Sportsman’s Lodge property. The White Eagle Restaurant and all the lower portion of land were overflowed and covered with water from Indian Creek. Water which had been a sewage disposal ever since the late 70’s by record. Bob Allen knowing what he knew closed down the flooded RV Park on theSouthside of the property.
Land that was soon to be sold to the State of Florida through the Franklin County Commission for the Indian Creek Park. The trailer we lived in was fully flooded and we started seeking a place to live. In hindsight I should have taken the family and left then and never looked back.
But I was never that good at running so I stayed put and continued to fight. In 2006 we were living on the Southside of the Lodge property while negotiations were being made for the sale. I personally worked with the “grant writer” for the project and the “Trust for Public Lands.” In 2006 we took these photos of Franchesca outside the trailer we lived in.
As you will notice like any child she is fascinated with dirt. Unfortunately at the time we thought it was “cute” as most parents would. Only in hindsight has the importance of this come to light. Yes, that is dirt at the corner of her mouth and yes she did taste it. As a child I well remember doing the same and my sister and I making dirt pies.
In 2007 DEP answered 5 years of constant work to get them to see. Four enforcement agents came to the Lodge and vowed to address all our concerns. The result was that a Consent Order was issued to the owners of the “borrow pit” and the Waste Water Plant was ordered to clean up it’s act by moving the spray heads that sprayed into the “borrow pit” and to convey no sewage by pipes or any other means to the wetlands.The Eastpoint Waste Water Plant was only told and never issued ANY citation.
After so long a battle it was only a bitter sweet victory. As it seemed the sale of the Southside of the property was a sure thing attitudes toward my involvement changed. Hal Tobin and Mel Madgison a St. Joe lawyer were put in charge of negotiations. Suddenly as the promise of 4 million dollars became a near reality I was allotted no more than a shadow figure status.I was already suffering from exhaustion, depression, and emotional distress. I was sent to Tucson Arizona and spent the month of October there with Bob’s sisters Betty and Nora Allen.
Two of those weeks I spent at St. David’s monastery seeking to be rejuvenated. I determined it was time to come back and get to work. On arriving in Panama City, Florida though I had called, (12 times) no one was there to pick me up after a 30 hour bus ride. No one would answer my phone calls, not even Sonia.
Not knowing what catastrophe had struck I determined to walk the 90 miles to Eastpoint. Let it suffice to say when I finally arrived it did not take genius to realize I was no longer welcomed. At that point I suffered a full nervous breakdown and found myself homeless and without a friend in the world.
I contacted a Church Group in nearby Wakulla County and explained my situation.Without question they took me in and gave me both home and support. After months of dealing with the loss of family and friends and being separated from Franchesca I was beginning to find myself once again.
The only communications I got had to do with me coming back to work at the Lodge. Just prior to Christmas Bob brought Sonia and Franchesca to visit. Franchesca had a cold and was not feeling well. I could do little but hold her in the Church Chapel and cry. I sent Christmas gifts that Christmas by a friend, but it was the bluest Christmas for me. By mid summer I was sure that part of my life was over. I forgave and proceeded onward to forget. I was ready to start my own yard and remodeling service and was making arrangements to go to Africa on a mission trip in October of 2008. But one communication by e-mail was to change everything once again. “Baby sick—had cirgury alright now” followed by a phone number.
For nine months I had been ignored and pushed aside with little communication or reasonable talk of reconciliation. I did not know what to do so I went into the Chapel and prayed. That day I went to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and found my baby on the verge of death. Sonia was not truly coherent or aware of the seriousness of her condition. We waited for the Doctor to tell us what was wrong and three days later it came. A very rare pediatric lung cancer named Pluero Pulmonary Blastoma. There was only a 20% chance of her survival. We asked what caused it and the doctor said, “just plain “bad Luck” we have no known cause for this.
With two bags of clothes Sonia and I rode in the ambulance to Shands Hospital at Gainesville, Florida.The change from day to day as her life hung between life and death, as she had her right lung removed andendless streams of poison shot into her body is visible and tangible.
Everyday was a slow year long. Every moment an internal pain that was indescribable. All that kept me anywhere near sanity was the bravery with which Franchesca fought and remained alive through the endless torture.These words echo the mentality of all those who still believe that once the oil was stoppedfrom leaking everything was over and alright.
IS IT? Following Riki Ott’s warning in June of 2010 I evacuated the coast and moved inland to Georgia. Once again as in 2009 after my daughter was declared free of cancer I returned again to Sportsman’s Lodge. In 2009 I found no improvement in the pollution of the Indian Creek.I found the Consent Order to be completed in 120 days against Magnolia Ridge LLC had never been executed.
It was business as usual except now the waters ,rain, and even the air was filled with corexit/oil, benzene, and the water was producing flesh eating bacteria from microbes eating the toxins. As with Indian Creek everyone was and still are turning their heads and not wanting to see the TRUTH!
So the outcome is that we play politics with the deaths of men, women, and especially children. It seems NO ONE fully grasp the final consequences of this disaster. That final consequence is the suffering and deaths of thousands. The Oysterman worry if we make waves their Bay will be shut down. The restaurant and business owners worry that any negative findings will ruin the economy and their business. SO-we must all be silent and turn our heads as people suffer and fall dead from these deadly toxins.
So, WHY DID I RETURN? In the world of hopelessness and useless politics I heard the most miraculous story. A story of two people who literally put everything in their life on hold and without hope of acceptance or remuneration believed there was hope and that they had to do something.
John Hutchison world famed anti-gravity scientist and companion Nancy Lazaryan came to the Gulf of Mexico on a mission. The mission: to take some filthy, toxic, and polluted water and make it pure. Whether they succeed or not it is this spirit alone that will give us any hope.
STOP IT! STOP IT! Start DOING something!
What you can do is stop pretending this disaster does not exist. If it is not touching you—CRY OUT for the love of others.
OK-maybe your not listening, ok-maybe like others you believe it will never affect you. Maybe you want political or government answers from a political body and government that created this deadly disaster anyway. WHY IS THE BP OIL SPILL NOW MORE DEADLY THAN EVER? Because no one will believe that a child just by touching the water can in shortand horrific days be dead.
WHAT WILL IT TAKE? I am not sure..but anywhere there is hope in the midst of hopeless apathy I want to be there. I want to help make it work. By being here I am putting my daughter, my spouse, and myself in danger. I see the sea of resistance and negativism and have only found two positive voices—OH, but they are not talking about it—they are doing it. What are you doing?
Even after all this has personally cost me—I can not quit/I will not quit. I have seen the enemy and he is us! If all you are concerned about is yourself I will advise as Riki Ott did, “run as far and as fast as you can” because the worst is yet to come. Everyday for 365 days I died and was only resurrected moment by moment by some hope a nurse, doctor, or total stranger would give. I will never forget the old black lady on the public bus. She asked me why I was going to Shands and I told her that my daughter had cancer.. Without embarrassment or thought she stood up leaning on her cane with her free hand lifted and in a loud voice proclaimed my daughter’s healing. I never got to tell her that was the day my 5 year old daughter was to have her right lung removed. I couldn’t tell her for my own choked back tears. She didn’t talk about it, she did what at that moment she was able to do. God help us!~ We know not what we do not do and the suffering we cause for the love of only ourselves.