Activists, academics and journalists joined East Palestine-area residents Saturday in a marathon event to raise nearly $3,000 for those affected by a toxic train derailment 10 months ago.

The fundraiser was moderated by Maximillian Alvarez, editor-in-chief of The Real News Network in Baltimore and the host of the “Working People” podcast, and producer Jules Taylor. Both remained in front of the camera and interviewed guests for an extraordinary 12 hours, although they did take a few bathroom breaks — Alvarez joked that he was fueled by Red Bull energy drinks and needed to step out on rare occasions.

A number of residents joined the livestream to tell their stories and discuss the fears and struggles they’ve experienced since the Feb. 3 derailment.

“Life will never be the same,” said East Palestine resident Daren Gamble. He noted that most reporters and politicians who flocked to East Palestine in the days after the derailment have stopped visiting. The derailment is rarely mentioned in the news.

“Nobody cares,” he said. “We’re living through this nightmare in East Palestine almost a year later, and it’s just like nothing happened.”

Indeed, Alvarez repeatedly reminded the audience that the livestream event was intended to keep the residents’ stories alive as well as to raise funds.

A woman who identified herself as Sharon said she lives 20 miles from the derailment, then displayed a map showing the path of a massive black cloud created a few days after the derailment, when officials dumped and burned a toxic chemical called vinyl chloride. The map showed the cloud moving over Pennsylvania, near her home.

“At midnight, I went outside to check the air,” she said. “That was a mistake. I had sore throats and burning nostrils for months.”

Other residents who spoke included Chris and Jessica Albright, Jami Wallace, Hilary Flint, Christa Graves and Christina Siceloff. Some joined the livestream discussion from their homes, while others connected through a computer set up at the East Palestine Eagles Club.

They were joined by a number of others who’ve been involved in advocating for affected citizens, reporting on the derailment, and studying health impacts on residents and the environment. That list of guest included Jon Hanson, the Alan A. Stone Professor of Law and the director of the Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School; Heather Hulton Vantassel, executive director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper, a nonprofit organization focused on water quality; Louis DeAngelis of Status Coup News; and Dr. Beatrice Golomb, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and principal investigator for the East Palestine Health Effects Study.

Funds raised will be used to purchase Target and Amazon gift cards, which will be distributed to families struggling to afford items for Christmas celebrations.

As the livestream ended shortly before 10 p.m., a still energetic Alvarez signed off by saying, “Now I’m going to sleep for 24 hours.”

They left the fundraiser link up for about another day and more than doubled the amount of donations.

You can find the event on YouTube.

The PUP is the publication of the striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh Union Progress

The PUP is the publication of the striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.