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The Nation

April 20, 2011

Day of remembrance: 1 year after Gulf oil disaster

(Continued)

NEW ORLEANS —

The solemn ceremonies marking the disaster underscore the delicate healing that is only now taking shape. Oil still occasionally rolls up on beaches in the form of tar balls, and fishermen face an uncertain future.

Louis and Audrey Neal, a Mississippi couple that survives on catching crabs, said it's gotten so bad since the spill that they're contemplating divorce and facing foreclosure as the bills keep piling up.

"I don't see any daylight at the end of this tunnel. I don't see any hope at all. We thought we'd see hope after a year, but there's nothing," Audrey Neal said.

"We ain't making no money. There's no crabs," said Louis Neal, a lifelong crabber in Pass Christian, Miss.

"I'm in the worst shape I've ever been in my whole damn life. I'm about to lose my whole family," he said. "I can't even pay the loans I have out there. That's how bad it's gotten."

His wife said the financial hit was only part of the past year's toll. "Our lives are forever changed," she said. "Our marriage, our children, it's all gotten 100 percent worse."

She said the couple received about $53,000 from BP early on, but that was just enough money to cover three months of debt. They haven't received a dime from an administrator handing out compensation from a $20 billion fund set up by BP, they said.

Still, it's not all so bleak.

Traffic jams on the narrow coastal roads of Alabama, crowded seafood restaurants in Florida and families vacationing along the Louisiana coast attest to the fact that familiar routines are returning, albeit slowly.

"We used to fuss about that," said Ike Williams, referring to the heavy traffic headed for the water in Gulf Shores, Ala., where he rents chairs and umbrellas to beachgoers. "But it was such a welcome sight."

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