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by Lea Terhune

   Vermonters by the hundreds came out to welcome the Abolition 2000 walkers. They brought food, comfort, hope and cheer! They waved as they drove by, and came out into their yards to urge us on. Sometimes they parked their cars, or left their homes, to walk with us.

   I sought out new faces and asked where they joined the Walk. A young couple told me they were weeding their garden, dropped their tools and started walking when they saw our banners. A man dressed for hiking said he heard about the Walk the night before on the radio, and left the trail at dawn to join up with us. A family heard about the Walk in church, and drove 50 miles to be with us.

   My perspective of the Walk is a little different from the walkers, as I was responsible for a support vehicle -- known as a Sag Wagon. I was with three people who had driven 2400 from West Texas to join the Walk. They live downwind and downwater from a border town where Vermont is spending 25 million dollars to build a nuclear waste dump for VT Yankee, our commercial nuclear power plant in Vernon. They wanted to meet Vermonters face to face, walk with us, sing with us and talk -- tell their story, report on the findings of a panel of judges (who ruled in their favor last month regarding geological faults in the area, and environmental racism), and ask us to stand with the people of West Texas to STOP the DUMP, and the 2400 mile transport of lethal waste across the country!

   One Texan walked the entire 93 miles (he is legally blind). Another walked about 50 of the miles (he is 83 years old, and took time out to have lunch with Fred Tuttle!) The third member of the delegation walked when she wasn't meeting with Sierra Club members in towns we passed through, and with the press. I set up the schedule of interviews along the way, and kept her plenty busy! It paid off -- the Brattleboro reformer was the first VT newspaper to come out against the TX-ME-VT Compact and the Sierra Blanca Dump in an editorial. Newspapers in Montpelier, Randolph, Woodstock, Upper Valley, Brattleboro and Springfield carried the story of the VT DUMP in West Texas, and got the message out about the injustice of this Compact/Dump.

   We took on the task of being the rear guard clean-up crew, to keep busy as the walkers headed out each morning. Sometimes one of us walked, and the other advanced the car and watched the clock, to get to the next interview on time. Our most treasured moments were when Editors drew their entire staff into the room to hear the story about the Dump and the desparate struggle of poor people in west Texas to get information to people in Vermont who they believe would not fund this Dump if they knew what was being done, in their name.

   When I first talked with the people in TX about joining the Walk, they did not know how they could afford to get here. They decided to drive, and asked their community to donate for gas. All along the Walk, they paid for things from a zippered bank bag full of coins! I thought that was odd, until I learned that they wanted to use the money people had given them, and most donations were small amounts given in coins! An old woman had pressed $2.50 into their hands, saying "Habla por me." When they were tired and discouraged, they would say to each other, "Habla por mi, HABLA POR MI!" And the energy they needed came from those words.

   There was tension when Bernie refused to speak at the Springfield rally if people from Texas were on the podium. They stepped aside. They were disappointment that they couldn't speak as part of the Walk, but they respected that, too. What they gained from fellowship with the walkers was trust, and love, and hope; appreciation for the beauty of Vermont, and the strength and justice of our people. They believe we will not send our nuclear waste to their backyard.

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