Victims of the 2013 Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster were honored at a candlelight vigil held at Taylor Dock on Wednesday night, July 6.
A heart was traced out of 47 lanterns to commemorate each of the disaster’s victims. The heart was placed on Taylor Dock just outside of Fairhaven, which rests over train tracks used in the transit of oil trains.
The event was hosted by 350.org, an international grassroots organization raising awareness about climate change. Dixie cup candles were distributed as the vigil began with music and prayers led by Jewell and Douglas James of the Lummi Nation.
Three years ago, a train pulling 72 cars of crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, a town in Quebec, Canada. The train had been left unattended on a hill above Lac-Mégantic with one smoking locomotive left running to power the air brakes. A fire started and was extinguished by shutting off the fuel, after which the electricity was cut. With no power the air brakes soon lost enough pressure to hold the train and gravity led the train downhill at 65 mph.
“If the trains weren’t carrying the most carbon intensive form of oil they would still be too dangerous to have on the rails, and if the trains were completely safe they would still be carrying dangerous climate pollution,” said Alex Ramel, a STAND (formerly ForestEthics) organizer works to oppose oil trains in Skagit and Whatcom Counties.
The DOT-111A tank cars, known as the CTC-111A in Canada, are capable of carrying 30,110 gallons. Sixty-three of the 72 exploded or drained into Lac-Mégantic. In 2011, the Association of American Railroads put forward requirements for new tank cars to use thicker normalized steel along with other design improvements.
“It’s not just people who are at risk, it’s the forests and all the little creatures that we survive off of,” Bellingham resident Cedar Reese said.
Wear red and show your support at the Whatcom County Council meeting on July 12 at 6:30 p.m. to discourage fossil fuel exports.
For the last five years, Paul Anderson has been spreading awareness about the dangers oil and coal trains bring by donating his photographs of protesters and refineries to environmental groups.
“It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re on a phone bank or are going door to door or just waving signs, one person can do a lot,” Anderson said.
After the vigil the sand weighing the paper bags down was collected. The bags were then folded to be reused and the sidewalk chalk etches scrubbed clean.