A Few Comments on the Food Shortages
In June 1992 a Burlington Northern railroad derailed while crossing the Nemadji River. 14 cars jumped the track. One of these, a chemical car, fell into the water and began spilling benzene. A toxic cloud of benzene began to form, slowly growing only to be carried by winds in what appeared to be the direction of Duluth and the North Shore. Local authorities quickly went into action and began urging people to evacuate the city.
Our family was living on the Central Hillside at the time. Susie called me at work to make a plan. It so happened that we had booked a cabin up near Gooseberry Falls for the weekend but cancelled. Because we could not get our deposit back I had planned to turn it into a one day writing retreat.
Everyone had their radios on, following the breaking story. I was working at Chromaline in West Duluth at the time and it was decided that we would all leave by noon. The slow moving toxic cloud would not reach the city for a couple hours. The radio station I was listening to had callers calling in to ask which roads were best to take in order to get out of town. Purportedly all traffic heading toward Duluth from the north was stopped in Two Harbors, as were other roads coming from the west and south.
When I left the office and headed to my house at the top of First Avenue East, there was an eerie sensation that I was living in a horror film. There were no cars moving, and with the exception of one man who was standing in the middle of his front yard with his arms folded I saw no people at all anywhere. I went into my house, changed clothes, grabbed a few items for the evening and left.
While I was in my car, people were calling the radio station asking what roads were open to get out of town, and one of them said that traffic heading toward Two Harbors was backed up all the way to London Road. Well, that was the direction I needed to go. Looking out over the lake I could see the benzene cloud but it was moving slow and going more north than west, so I decided to take my…