On Saturday, Jan. 16, I got a chance to speak with Glory W. She and her family were four of approximately 80 volunteers who took to the streets of Flint to distribute donated water and spread the word that water filters were available at fire departments throughout the city.
Can you tell us what you’ve been through over the last year and a half?
Well, I’m very, very disappointed in the Flint leadership. I really feel that this issue of using the Flint River should have been put before the voters. At one point, I had read that GM’s machinery was rusting out from the Flint River, and that they had to get permission to use another water source. Well, OK, the machinery’s rusting out; what about the people?
So, I’m very disappointed, not only in the leadership, but I’m disappointed that they’re dancing around the blame game now. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is OK, but there should’ve been more investigation before they did what they did, before they made that choice.
I really think that the decision some time ago where people who work in the city of Flint did not have to live in the city of Flint has proven to be a mistake. Because if you’re not living in Flint, if you’re not experiencing the disaster, you don’t understand what the people are going through.
Like our ex-mayor [Dayne Walling]. From what I understand, his family did not even live in the city. They didn’t work in the city or go to school in the city, so his kids were never put in danger. So for him to make that kind of a decision for our children was unconscionable. I just can’t imagine why he would do something like that to the city.
I put the blame with him and with the governor [Rick Snyder]. You know, the governor’s not here. And you know when he was here, I had heard that someone asked him [if] he would the drink water coming out of the tap that he knew was contaminated, and he never really answered that question. So they’re not understanding what we’re going through.
I think this [volunteer] effort is fantastic, but you know, when you see those commercials on TV about the third-world countries and the children sitting in the street drinking water out of a rain puddle, oh my God. We live in Flint, Michigan, which is in the United States of America, which is in one of the richest countries in the world, and people are bringing us water? The irony is unbelievable.
When did you first become aware of what was going on with the water?
When it started smelling. You know, we knew they were going to use the Flint River and I was very upset about that because, you know, at one point they had told people not to fish out of the river because the mercury level and other things were so high. So, when my water started smelling and started being cloudy, I had to buy water. I had to spend quite a bit every month on water to wash my food, to cook my food. Unfortunately, I can’t buy enough water to wash my clothes.
But you know, I go to my daughter’s house to take a bath, because I don’t feel safe sitting in that water. I’m developing these light spots on my skin. So, over the last year, slowly things have been happening that’s made me aware that we’re really in danger here.
How soon did you start using bottled water?
I would say about a month after they switched over.
I’m a tea drinker. And I have a glass cup, so I made a cup of tea one day and thought ‘That doesn’t look right’. So I poured it out, and I made some more tea. And it was so cloudy and so dense so I said, ‘I’m not drinking this’. So then I went and bought bottled water.
My heart goes out to the children who have been affected. They’re going to go through this for some time now. Saying I’m sorry is not enough. The people of Flint need some type of relief to let people know that we really messed up, we’re really sorry, and we’re going to fix this.
Now that little by little, the governor, the city have been stepping up their response, are you at all satisfied with what they’ve been doing?
No. No. To me, they’re only stepping up because the outside, you know, outside Flint, are putting pressure on them. I saw in the news the other day that this has gone all the way to the White House. The White House is watching what happens here. Yeah, they’re going to step up now because [of] all this pressure.
The eyes of the world are looking at Flint. Would they have done it if the eyes of the world were not looking at us? Would they have stepped up and said anything besides ‘Oops, we made a mistake’? I really don’t think so.
President Barack Obama is gonna be here next week at the Auto Show. I know a lot of people are asking him to drive up an hour north to Flint and come visit the city himself. Is that something you would like to see happen? Does it matter?
I love Barack Obama, but really, another politician, what’s it gonna do? What’s that going to do for the people of Flint? If it’s going to bring more aid to us to redo our pipes so we’re not paying this load of money for water we can’t use, yeah, fine.
But basically, right now, I’m kind of down on politicians. You know, the Constitution says for the people, by the people, of the people. And I believe politicians have forgotten that. Do they really put us first? I don’t know.
And, can you tell me about what you’re going out to do today? Have you volunteered previously?
I’ve volunteered quite a few times. My granddaughter, she goes with me. We volunteer different places around the city to do things. I think volunteerism is a godsend for people. You know, we’re part of the community and when you give, you’re passing it forward. So I think it’s wonderful.
I’m here today to help pass out water and make sure that people are OK. That they have the water to drink and do whatever I can to do for that without just saying ‘I’m sorry’.
You know I work in Flint, I don’t live here, I work here, and I’ve had people who know that I work here see me posting on Facebook, and they’re asking ‘What can I do, what can I do?’ from all over the country. Have you seen people that you know from outside Michigan offering their support? Have you seen the community coming together?
I see people in Flint probably coming together more so than I’ve seen in a long time. You know, we’ve had some problems here in Flint. But I see this situation has really kind of pulled people together. When people are asking ‘What can I do?’, they’re going over and above, outside their comfort zone to do things. I was really glad to see my son here today [and] my daughter, because they’re working people and they don’t really get into the volunteer field, but they see a need. So I do see people coming together more, yes.
So, in a way this is kind of good for Flint, because it kind of united Flint more. If we can work through this together, maybe we can tackle the other problems that are affecting us and we can try to change our city and our community.