Tar Creek is like a candy store to journalists looking for stories and a toy store for researchers and first-time visitors trying to take it all in during an afternoon.

Chat piles, sinkholes and Tar Creek, Picher and Cardin buyouts and Hockerville and Treece never mentioned. Place and topography, toxins and dust, are not all these places are. Miami and Commerce, Quapaw and the long since towns of Douthat and Zincville hold their spaces in the Tar Creek Superfund story, too.

But the real story is about the survivors, how people moved and moved on, made it, and are living their lives. The successes have not been told and there is much to be said. Mothers with kids who were lead poisoned and how they got them up and made sure they graduated high school. Classmates surrounded by kids with ADD learned to read. And those very ADD kids learned to read, too. Teachers who learned how to reach through their teaching to those who were left behind. Dads and brothers, grandpas and uncles worked the mines and made the living for families who have built these towns and served the lord before we knew what else left behind would harm the futures of those of us who followed.

The illnesses associated with exposure to our pollutants took loved ones and taught us all to value each day as precious. Folks who moved away before the buyouts missed that struggle, but had their own and made new friends as they all started over in new neighborhoods and changed their school colors. We all knew who and how people moved and how we all were so very cold during those ice storms learning to value heat and light. Flooding got some of our homes but changed the routes any of us could take through this part of the county, but still, we all made our way home those nights. Long way home it might have been. When mining was collapsing, and fear hid the acknowledgment collapsing land could follow, there was BF Goodrich to spread the jobs that fed our families until that too collapsed with scars and other toxins beneath to keep a dread and loss alive again.

We are stronger and smarter for what we have endured and it is time to know this story is our story and it is time to tell it. Start practicing, get your thoughts together and share with us how you did this because this is the real story of Tar Creek. It is how we are living our lives in the largest Superfund site in America and making each day better in our own unique ways. Get in line we will be ready when you are to listen deeply and discover the messages of strength you discover in the telling. LEAD Agency is gathering the young and the grey-haired to be the guides as you, our seldom listened to are heard.

What you find in your words may we believe be the message the path for some other community member in a place just now discovering they too have toxins lying just outside their doors and shooting through their bloodstreams just as you have or have had. We have endured thirty-seven years of knowing something is wrong here, ever since that creek running through towns turned orange. And even with that knowing, we stood up, learned to drive a car, registered to vote, or not, had relationships, got a job, cashed our first paychecks, celebrated living through another day, not dwelling on how the Superfund site ruined us. How powerful is that? And how did I do it, how did you? Let's tell our stories, let's help those folks just waking up and wondering how on earth they can manage in their new normal. We got this. Let's share it. Call us at LEAD Agency we will hear you, you have a valuable story and our listeners are gathering.

We've been living in the candy store long enough 'bout time we explain how we got out. We have our own recipes, all types, all favors. This season reminds us how easy it is to make it ourselves and how rewarding it is to share.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

Rebecca Jim is the executive director of the LEAD Agency (www.leadagency.org).