The letter below just showed up in my in-box. I thought it was a powerful testimony to the significant and lasting impacts BP’s oil is having on the familes that rely on the Gulf for so much.A Letter from the Gulf Coast: I am sixty-one years old, have never done one blog, computer search or even gotten on line at all – My children and grand children are however fluid while using their computers. I don’t even own one. I’m not signing my name because I am thousands that live on the Gulf Coast – we have lived here for 10 generations — our lives, all our memories, our recreation, our baptisms, our first kisses, our most intimate moments, our loved ones ashes and our income have always revolved around the Gulf of Mexico – we have never taken her for granted – with our husbands she has been “the other woman” , with our children jumping the “biggest waves” has been an age old right of passage, our luxury saving for a week on the gulf in the summer or a month on the Gulf in the winter at Christmas. We have held hands walking down the beach at the brink of divorce, the budding of new love, the devastation of death and disease — and the Gulf, she allowed us to breathe in new breath and start again with new perspectives. This oil spill has devastated us. Also, each of us – every family lives on some sort of inlet, the bay and on the creek – now our front yards are no longer a place of entertainment or consultation — no swimming, no skiing, no wake boarding, no tubing, no fishing, no days playing in the water with cousins by the dozens while our 90 year old plus grandparents watch with wonder and are occasionally dipped into the water or navigated by strong healthy grandsons in to our small ski boat to see the growth that is happening since they skied and fished these waters. Now no one can even breathe well when the wind blows a certain way. So some days we cannot even sit on the deck — the dock is totally out of bounds! The Fourth of July – I can’t even imagine what it will be as I look out my back porch window – in the yard sits an above ground blue plastic pool – the flags that usually line the shore now line the back walk ways – the “pool” 15′ feet round by 3′ tall – only the smallest grandchildren can even get wet. While our normal Fourth of July – for generations – has been a family reunion – in the water swimming and skiing, hot dogs and hamburgers on the deck, watermelon on the dock – and the Fourth of July boat parade where everyone decorated their boat with everything red, white and blue and palmettos, reeds and with fishing net too. Then we form a parade from creek to creek culminating into an exorbitant fireworks display, each family spending a minimum of $150 on fireworks – no maximum has ever been determined (this year is bound to have an economic effect on out little seasonal fireworks stands in the area). One of my children’s families owns a 4 generational business, a very well known bar and grill on the bay – a gathering place for tourists and locals alike – they are now operating well below 20% of their normal income at this time of the year – this business supports at least 12 families that can no longer pay their bills – this multi generational business so in grained in our community it hosts several fundraisers every year – its location surrounded by water is perfect to lure a very large crowd with big enough hearts and pockets to support them generously – now what effect will this have on those organizations. My husband owns a second generation business – a boat marina – one of the best known in our area for repairs and sales, it is operating at almost 20% at its normal income 5 families are supported by this marina and lay offs are eminent – not to mention the dream of making it to 3 generations is becoming impossible – even though our oldest grandson has spent every summer since he was 10 years old (he’s 15 now) learning how to repair our board motors and run the business – and completely erases the dreams our other grandson has of following in his cousins footsteps in two years when he turns 10. Another lifelong dream was finally realized when another one of my children completed a 3 year long renovation of a very large sailboat – they sold everything in order to live aboard this beautiful sea worthy vessel to travel the Gulf waters from the Louisiana coast down past the Florida Keys and every inlet in between. They put it in the water at their slip in February of this year – its June this area is now uninhabitable – the passageways closed – the Gulf filled with oil – their new adventure halted – their lives drastically altered. Our family – we have survived damn near everything in tact: holding hands, praying, celebrating playing and looking forward with hope. This oil spill – the slow response to stopping the leak, the chemicals dispersed, the conflicting information, the fear of long term effects, watching the dolphins gather in the back of the smallest creeks in order to breathe, the schools of fish and minnows swimming slower (some upside down) dogs that still swim in the bay no longer have fleas and the sand has an orange tint right at the waters edge, businesses closing, boats with for sale sign on them on too many corners. The Gulf Coast usually bustling, the traffic unbearable, the song of laughter from the sunny beaches – is no longer present. Hope is beginning to also be a feeling of the past. I believe from now on our live will be defined by referring to life as before the BP oil spill and after the BP oil spill. Kind of like this generation refers to life as before 9/11 and after 9/11 and how my generation refers to life as before the war and after the war. I do feel as if we are in the battle of our lives for our life.