TOXIC TOUR OF TEXAS
1988-1992
Home Page | Exhibition Home | Reflections Home
MARY ALCORN
Fort Hancock

      WHAT DOES IT TAKE to do this work? A whole lot of stick-to-itness. As discouraging as it gets, try not to let it get you down. Keep at it. Strength; that comes from family and friends. Unfortunately, in a deal like this, you find out who your friends are, and who aren’t. But, you do find new friends and new strengths.
      I did a whole lot of soul searching to determine if what I felt and what we were doing was right, and that provided me with a lot of strength. You find strength where you didn’t know you had it, both in yourself, and in your friends and family. It’s just pure dedication. If you think you are right, you have to keep going, and there were times it was pretty darn hard. I would think, “I just give up!” Then a week would go by, and I’d calm down a little bit and say, “I can’t let them get away with this; I just can’t.”
      My first reaction to the idea of siting a low level dump here was, “I don’t like this at all.” I was naive and easily snowed, and I sat back and thought, “Let’s see what happens before I get all upset about it.” And lo and behold, suddenly I realized sittin’ back and waiting for what was to happen was just cuttin’ my own throat, because the Authority’s way of doing business specifically was to go as fast forward as they could. They did not make things real open and aware to us until it was too late for us to do something about it. They kept saying we would have these public hearings, and we would have input, and I kind of believed them. Then it dawned on me that by the time they came around to having the public input, it was getting to be a moot issue because the wheels would have turned so far.
      What first of all happened, they hadn’t even picked the site. They had it narrowed down to three or four places and that’s what keep me hanging back for so long. It took them so long to”officially” pick a site, and I was waiting for them to officially pick one, and I thought they would be honest and on the up and
up, and then we’ll talk about it. Well, as it turned out, they were kind of snowing us; they had picked our site unofficially, quietly, for a long, long time, and knew they were going with that site, and the others were covers, I guess you would say. And that’s what put me off. If I had known from the very beginning that they had ultimately picked our site, I would have jumped in with both feet.
      Educating myself occurred slowly and painfully. Lots and lots of letters were written, and lots of phone calls were made. We went to Austin and met with anybody we could think of that could have a bearing on this, or give us advice. Talk about an education! We started kind of in the middle with our local legislators and worked up and down from there. We met with the Governor’s office, Lt. Governor’s staff, Attorney General, Bureau of Radiation Control, Texas Water Commission, Sierra Club.
      The interesting thing is, I was kinda concerned that it would be real hard to get in and see people. Some we got in with EPISO’s help, but a lot of them, I just did myself over the phone. I called and said, “I’m Mary Alcorn, and I’m coming to Austin, and I’d like to meet with you.” Most of them, almost without exception, were more than willing to meet. You kind of think of them as real inaccessible, and there are a few that are, but one way or the other, through staff or whatever, if you really keep after them, it is not that hard to meet with them. Followup is also very important so they know you are seriously concerned.
      Most of what happened in our case was good fortune and luck from the people who stayed with it. A lot of strings were being pulled from enough directions. Diversity is important too. Garner support from as many groups as you can because the more they hear from more different groups, the more impact it has. What is it they say that there’s safety in numbers?