I hadn’t been back to Picher, OK since July 11, 2009. On that day we pretty much built a theater in the Picher Housing Community room to premiere the film to those who had helped make it. I wanted to show TAR CREEK to the people we had made it for, before showing it to the rest of the world. Make sure we had their approval. We drove home the next day, and have pretty much been on the road with TAR CREEK since then.
Rebecca Jim, who has a small part in the film, runs the Local Environmental Action Demanded Agency (LEAD) in Miami, OK, and this group hosts a Tar Creek Conference every fall. Last year, they sponsored a screening of our doc at the conference and more than 250 people came. This year, Rebecca showed the film twice. Rebecca gave me an “Environmental Excellence” award, which I completely don’t deserve (but refuse to return), and we got to hang with some of the good people who have been fighting the Tar Creek fight for a long time.
During the day before the conference, I snuck up to Picher, just to see how everything looked since the tornado and the buyout. I wanted to take a few shots around town and see who was still living there. Here are some before and afters where I had previous shots that lined up.
The pile from where this was taken sits between this house and Connell Avenue (Main Street). This house was offered $35,000. Backed right up to a towering pile.
These shots are from a pile that sits just west of Connell Avenue, which can be seen in both pics. This area is where Picher Housing used to sit before Acts of God and Act of Man separated the homes from the land and the people from the town.
It was pretty emotional to see homes that we had shot, shot next to, and shot inside no longer there. I was rooting for the buyout the whole way, not the one the people got put on them, but the ones they deserved. A buyout with class, with insight, with dignity. But I certainly didn’t feel content to see people’s homes gone. Moving people from this toxic place was the absolute right thing to do, that much I’m sure. I’m just not sure why it doesn’t feel right.