Salem News: Unit Events Held on Anniversary of Derailment
This article features a Government Accountability Project whistleblower client, Scott Smith, and was originally published here.
EAST PALESTINE — The Unity Council for the East Palestine Train Derailment — a grassroots group with representatives from all communities impacted by the rail disaster — commemorated the one-year anniversary of the rail disaster with a series of events held in the village and neighboring Columbiana on Saturday.
Billed as “A Day of Reflection and Unity”, the day featured a film festival, an opportunity for those affected by the disaster to take part in a health study, a ceremony reflecting perseverance, an informational series on environmental health and a gathering to celebrate community strength and solidarity through art and expressession.
The inaugural East Palestine Environmental Film Festival, “showcasing thought-provoking films that delve into environmental issues and their impact on East Palestine and other communities facing similar threats and challenges,” was held at the Columbiana Theatre.
The Columbiana Theatre was also the location of the environmental health series which included speakers from East Palestine Justice (the legal group led by famed environmentalist Erin Brockovich). Brockovich was not in attendance but sent East Palestine a video message in which she urged the community to stick together and keep fighting. Other speakers included independent scientist Scott Smith, Mike Schade of Toxic Free Future, Stephen Lester of Center for Health, Environment & Justice and Dr. Beatrice Golomb of University of Southern California San Diego as well as speakers from the the Government Accountability Project – a whistleblower protection group.
Dr. Golomb also set up a mobile phlebotomy on-site with the intention to gather information and blood samples from residents. Residents of Columbiana County and Beaver County in Pa. who were present during the train derailment and the subsequent chemical release were eligible to participate in the East Palestine Health Effects Study to determine what impact the derailment has had on resident’s epidemiology.
The gathering events were both held at McKim’s Honeyvine Winery located on East Taggart Street in East Palestine. According to a press release from the Unity Council, a “We Refuse to Die” ceremony was held to offer “a moment for community members to unite, reflect, and honor the perseverance of those affected by the derailment.”
The day’s events concluded with a “Tied Together in Unity” event. The event featured artwork by Emily Paige and projections by Aaron Henderson.
“We wanted to create a safe space for residents to reflect, grieve and celebrate. No matter how you look at it, our lives have changed in this past year. Let’s get together and talk about that,” said Hilary Flint, Vice President of Unity Council for the East Palestine Train Derailment and Director of Communications and Community Engagement for Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community. “We can’t build community if we don’t attempt to share spaces with each other. Sometimes we do that virtually, but on this day I wanted to do something extra special.”