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On Friday, August 1, Gibbs returned to her old neighborhood to give a tour of the area and an admonition to the public. “It is important that Western New Yorkers do not forget the lessons learned from Love Canal.” With her on the podium were Mike Schade of the Citizens Environmental Coalition and Rick Ammerman of the Hickory Woods Residents for Clean Environment. The nearly three-hour press conference and tour of the Love Canal area made it clear that efforts by the authorities to bury the memories of Love Canal are succeeding. The only indicators of unusual occurrences at the site are the fenced-in area of the Love Canal with its monitoring wells and the surrounding collection of eerily vacant and overgrown streets. But a new playground and nature habitat have been built on land that was once declared to be “uninhabitable.” A new minor league baseball field is under construction on the former site of the 93rd Street School. No signs in the area betray the Black Creek Village’s sordid history.

In a decidedly poignant moment, the caravan paused at the site of Gibbs former home on 101st Street. There, Gibbs and some of the former neighbors alternately reminisced and railed about the friendly, secure neighborhood that suddenly became their worst nightmare in the late 1970s. Only the residents of Hickory Woods, who now face a similar situation, could fully appreciate this combination of nostalgia and venom that the women expressed.

Mad dogs, Englishmen, and, apparently, environmental activists, go out in the noonday sun. Beneath the August sun, the caravan moved to the Chemical Waste Management [CWM] site on Balmer Road in Porter for the second leg of the anniversary tour. Gibbs spoke about environmental justice and the overburdening of the Lewiston-Porter area, which is home to the only hazardous waste dump in New York State. Bill Rolland and Bill Choboy of Residents for Responsible Government and Tim Henderson of Residents Organized for Lewiston-Porter’s Environment preceded Gibbs in addressing the crowd over the roar of nearly constant truck traffic entering and exiting the CWM site. Their simple message was “enough is enough.”

An environmental awards ceremony was held that evening at the P.A.C.E. Region 1 Union Hall on 24th Street in Niagara Falls. The seemingly tireless Gibbs handed out more than thirty awards to local environmental activist individuals and groups. The speakers stressed the cooperation of union and environmental causes to the overflow crowd at the Union Hall. Speakers at the event included Jim Briggs of Paper Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers, Roger Cook from the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health, Kathleen Curtis from the Citizens Environmental Coalition, Jim Duncan from the United Auto Workers, Don McMillan of the Workers Health and Safety Center, as well as David Hahn-Baker from the Toxic Waste/Lupus Coalition. They introduced Gibbs as the keynote speaker. Gibbs spoke about her experiences with Love Canal, the necessity for cooperation between labor and environmentalists, and her new organization, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, which is based in Virginia. by C. Roberts-Abel

Twenty-five years ago, a sleepy little blue-collar section of Niagara Falls exploded into the international spotlight, and a new folk hero emerged. A new term for toxic nightmare, Love Canal, was added to our vocabulary, and the neighborhood’s crusader, Lois Marie Gibbs, became a household name. The residents’ three-year struggle to get nearly 900 households relocated from a toxic dump area containing more than 20,000 tons of toxic waste has been well documented in books and film. This August marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first evacuation order, which included only pregnant women and children under the age of two. Events that marked this 25th anniversary began on Thursday, July 31, with a car caravan, and ended on Sunday, August 3, with an environmental boat tour.