This story is the first of a two-part series by Public Health Watch and The Texas Tribune. It is co-published by Grist.
Danny Hardy was sitting in the third-row pew at Deer Park First Baptist Church when the cellphones began buzzing in unison. Several men quickly shifted in their seats — all of them first responders or employees at one of the dozens of nearby refineries and chemical plants.
Hardy, a retired police officer and head of the church security team, wasn’t alarmed. After living in the Houston suburb of Deer Park for nearly 40 years, he was accustomed to the sight of refinery flares burning in the night, the occasional stench of chemicals and the sound of sirens wailing in the distance. Deer Park was nestled in the heart of North America’s petrochemical industry. These things were to be expected.
But as ripples of conversation spread through the congregation, it became clear that this emergency alert — on Sunday, March 17, 2019 — was different. After a few tense moments Wayne Riddle, a former mayor, s... Read more