On March 28, it has been 38 years since I learned the true meaning of fear. As I sat in my 7th grade classroom at Holy Family Catholic School, our principal wheeled in a TV for us to watch the news. All classes were cancelled indefinitely. We were being told that our town was under an evacuation order. My mom and dad were at work far from the school yet I could see my house from the front door of the school. Parents were picking up their children. I wasn’t even allowed to walk home so my mom called our neighbor and she picked me up.

What happened after that is a blur. Everyone came home, we packed up the car, and headed in a direction opposite of the wind. We stayed there for 3 days and headed back home. My father decided to stay home to protect our house and the rest of us headed to a relative’s home a couple hours away. The fear we experienced in that event was felt by many in our large community. It was called Three Mile Island. We were always led to believe there would never be any problems. On March 28, 1979, something did happen, and you never trusted anything they said after that.

Now, I reside in Haughton Bossier Parish, and a neighbor to Camp Minden, and I live in fear of what could be if the burn chamber stays. From the time the stockpile was found to when the Burn Chamber was installed, I worried every time a lightning storm was in the area. Praying nothing would happen. There is nothing ESI can say to me to make me join their side after all I have been through. I do not want this in my “back yard” and I do not want to live in fear of anything happening to my friends and family. I can’t relive the fear I encountered when I was just 13. No one should live in that kind of fear.

I was a resident of Doyline for 12 years, prior to moving to Haughton in 2007. I heard my share of explosions from Camp Minden. What could we do? They dealt in black powder and it was a hazard of the job. Some people were injured and some people lost their lives. It was always news for the moment. There were no concerned citizen groups or action committees. We accepted our fate whatever that would be.

Now, as I sit 1.5 miles from the Burn Chamber, I wonder what the future holds for me and my family and friends. Haughton is growing all around my house. Just in the past 10 years it has grown considerably. Cute little cookie cutter homes, kids riding bikes at night, parents having barbecues – everyone having a great time. That could come to an end if the burn chamber stays.

During this whole process, I needed to know what was going on so instead of asking a million questions, I decided to read and listen to everyone’s educated opinions. As a trained journalist, I like to hear all sides before I form my opinion. I am not a scientist. But I can learn and listen to the facts from trained professionals. As I listened to the opposition, these experts didn’t have a hidden hate agenda towards ESI. They had nothing to gain but to share the truth and they just cared enough about the community to keep it safe.

As I listened to locals and experts in favor of the burn chamber staying, I was curious if they had a financial stake in the chamber staying – and they did. Then I watched as they continued to spread malicious lies about the opposition. We are not from out of state. We are not paid to picket as some said. Oh, and we are not just a small group. It was beginning to make sense. It seems like money was now more important than community safety. They did a job they were hired to do. When the job is done, they need to move on. Let us all be able to pat them on the back as they are leaving.

I have now watched a few elected officials support the removal of the burn chamber but several elected officials have chosen to remain silent. Those are the officials that should be listening to their constituents. You represent us, we elected you. For whatever reason you have chosen to stay silent, please consider our future. Most of you elected officials are born and raised Haughton and Bossier Parish. If you care about the direction of this area, take a stand for what is right. Don’t put money ahead of common sense and health. Put our future generations health in front of everything.

In closing, I am hoping one day soon that we’ll all know the fate of the Burn Chamber. A fate that sees it being dismantled and removed. I would never wish for anyone to experience what I did when I was 13. Please, Haughton residents, call your representatives. Write letters to the Governor. Tell them the chamber needs to move when the job is done. Let’s see positive and healthy growth in Haughton. Let’s keep our kids on bikes at night, in the parks and in the back yards without fear of breathing anything that could hurt them.

Caroline King
Haughton, LA