A personal story about the ITC Disaster
Do you remember the Plume? It came over our head from the East side of Houston on a Sunday morning. This Plume came from the Intercontinental Terminals Company (better known as ITC) in Deer Park when several of their storage tanks caught on fire. Three years ago this week, this disaster, originating in Eastern Harris County communities, overcame the whole Houston metropolitan area.
My name is Cassandra. I am the Communications Associate at Air Alliance Houston. Until recently, I lived in Pasadena with my parents in a neighborhood at the corner of Beltway 8 and State Highway 225 called Deepwater. This house was owned by my paternal grandparents, and I called it home for 18 years.
I remember the morning this explosion happened. My mother and I had gone to a religious service at 8 am and returned home at about 9:30 am. Shortly after, when we had changed from our Sunday best into our lounge clothes, let our hair loose from our tight ponytails and buns, we went to have coffee together on our front porch.
There, just blanketing the sky was a black sheet of thick black smoke.
I would like to emphasize I have grown up in the Deepwater area. I grew up with the Ship Channel staple – Wally Wise Guy, a turtle mascot who taught us how to ‘shell-ter’ in place when a chemical disaster happens. At 5 years old, after my half-day at Pre-K, I would tell my parents about the AM radio channel where we could listen to updates on chemical disasters if and when they happened.
When I saw the plume, I simply looked at my mom and said “Wow. Should we call dad?” My dad is a Board Operator at a plastics producing facility further down SH 225. She responded, “he will call us.”
To the disappointment of Wally Wise, we did not turn off the A/C, we did not go inside. In fact, my mother and I finished our coffee on the porch and then meandered inside to watch a movie.
Within hours my dad called and said he was ‘fine, the smoke should go away soon, it’s a facility down the street.’
The nonchalance of this chemical disaster story is familiar to those who grew up or currently live in communities like mine. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can’t accept the normalization of these threats to the health and safety of our communities.