When I was five years old, an amazing battle was raging in my hometown of South Otselic, and though I donít remember many of the details, I do know that without the actions of the community, it might have become an entirely different place.
This week, I was reminded of the event, which had completely escaped my memory. In the late Ď80s and early Ď90s, the state was looking at sites to locate low level radioactive waste facilities, and areas in Chenango County near South Otselic were on the list.
Even now, my memories of those years are pretty vague. I can remember seeing the bright orange signs on lawns throughout the valley, and I have lingering memories of singing songs like ďNo Nukes for MeĒ during morning programs at the school. Beyond that, I have no memories of the tumultuous times and the actions the community took to protect area residents and our way of life.
Although I canít remember much of those times, hearing about the actions taken by the local residents and the school district in Otselic Valley seem amazing to me today. The district took on an active role in protesting the waste facilities, and they werenít only concerned with the site being built in their backyards. They were concerned about the threat to the public wherever the facility was built.
The school district helped to organize the effort against the facility and at one point even bussed students to Albany to protest. Talking with family members how remember more of those times, Iíve heard one teacher may have even been arrested, but I have no idea if that is fact or fiction.
Either way, it seems amazing that the community could come together for a common cause, and even more amazing that a school district would not only encourage, but active support the effort.
While this event occurred only 20 years ago, it seems like the community has changed extraordinarily since then. The people who are determined to take action and make their voice heard are fewer and farther between and less and less people seem willing to create a controversy, no matter the outcome.
Today we have some vocal community members who stand up and fight against things that may impact the community and the county. Groups have formed to oppose the NYRI power line, and war protesters stand in the park in Norwich nearly every weekend. And while those individuals are trying to voice their opposition to events, they donít seem to have the community support of those individuals who fought and won the battle against the radioactive waste facilities. Maybe thatís because people arenít as concerned with the issues at hand today. I hope thatís the case, because the alternative is that our communities no longer understand the power of the people, and the change that can be made by speaking your mind.