The beaches of Waveland, Mississippi, are closed right now, but that doesn’t stop Wayne Newman and his wife, Sheena, from setting up their umbrella and chairs on the sands to gaze at the waters of the gulf each day. “It’s a soft closing,” Wayne explains, meaning that no one will be thrown off the beach, although caution is advised.
The beaches look different than they did when the couple moved from Kentwood six years ago after Wayne was transferred for work. Tar balls and booms now spoil the view, and the Newmans are alone out here save the clean-up workers. “But we’re going to stick around. We love it,” Wayne says, which is obvious – they closed on their house across the road just two days after Hurricane Katrina. He adds, “It’s not the beach or the sand’s fault.”
Dead fish floated ashore way before the oil showed up. “I buried them in the sea oats because I’m part Indian,” he says. “That’s just what Indians do.” He’s dismayed at the slow pace of the cleanup crews– “they’re twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off” - and he reports broken boom and keeps his eye out. “Obama said he’d get more jobs for the community. I didn’t think it would be this way.”
Wayne has experience with oil companies. He worked offshore for three years, and his father retired from a position with Transocean right before the spill. He blames the disaster on big money and corruption, but doubts BP or the government will be able to clean up the mess. “There’s only so much man can do,” he says. “This one’s for Mother Nature up above.” He thinks maybe a hurricane will slosh all the oil away, or bring it onshore where it can be cleaned up.
An employee at the Waveland Wal-Mart, Wayne tried to buy a British flag there the other day, but the mega-chain doesn’t sell them. “I wanted to fly it half mast, with the American flag on top,” he says.
Photos: Claire Layrisson