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The 11 'Human Resources' Were People, Too

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So much about working life is dehumanized in corporatespeak. Workers, the employees, have become nothing more than faceless names in large accounting/payroll offices. Even the hiring and firing quarters are no longer "personnel departments', but designated "human resources', as though all in their workforces are no better than what comes out of the mines; or, in this case, the deepwater oil fields. 

Like spectators watching a 21st century version of the 1958 Steve McQueen horror flick The Blob, we were on the edge of our seats and eager to see the closing credits that signaled the end of the fear, the helplessness that began at 9:45PM CDT on April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. We, at least, were able to move on with our lives; unlikely to grieve for the bit-players who were obliterated by the monster, let alone try to remember their names lest we face years, like the families of the eleven killed, of being unable to forget. Let us choose to know and remember not only the names of the eleven, but learn something about each one so that the number 11 fails to disguise their humanity.


Jason Anderson, 35-years-old, was born on November 22, 1974. F rom Midfield, Texas, Jason was born in Freeport and grew up to be a middle linebacker for his high school football team. After graduating from Tidehaven High School in 1994, and attending Wharton County Junior College, Jason went into the oil field business, starting as a paint chipper and quickly moving up the ranks. By July 2002, he married "his soul mate," Shelley at the First Baptist Church in Bay City before a crowd of 1,000. In recent years, he and Shelley had lived in Midfield, a community of less than 200 people, about 16 miles outside Bay City, with their two children -- daughter Lacy, 5, and son Ryver, 1.

He had informed his wife, Shelly, of BP's dangerous disregard for safety. He was so worried about an accident that the toolpusher drew up a will and talked about his hopes for their daughter on his last trip home. "Everything seemed to be pressing to Jason about getting things in order, in case something happened; teaching me how to do certain things on the motor home so that I could go and do things with the kids, make sure that I knew how to do everything," Shelly Anderson told NBC's Lisa Myers on the June 3, 2010 broadcast of the Today Show. Cindy Proctor (Canyon Lake, TX) remembered Jason coming into her video store to rent movies. "He was always a great kid, and grew up to be a great man,' she said.

Jason was just a few hours away from heading to a new job. The Texas father of two had packed up his locker -- making sure to take all of his family photos -- and would have been on the first helicopter off the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig the morning of April 21, on his way to being the senior toolpusher on the Discovery Spirit. But the helicopter never came. In an online May 21, 2010 report by Anna M. Tinsley for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Billy Anderson said his son was a devoted husband and father, a former high school football player, a man he said was "as good as gold." "It's real hard to talk about," he said. "He was everything a father would hope, pray and want his son to be."

Jason enjoyed hunting, golfing and traveling. His love of travel was so great that his wife learned to make sure their travel camper was always well stocked with provisions.

"With Jason, he might walk in the door and tell Shelley, "Let's get in the travel trailer and go,' " said the Rev. Clyde Grier, who performed Jason's memorial. "There was a spontaneity to him that made life exciting."

Family and friends say Jason would go the extra mile for anyone, always helping out anyone in need. "He always read an extra story, he always snuggled a little longer," according to his obituary. "Whatever it took, he would do it. ... He never, ever ended a phone call without saying I love you. He never got on the plane for work without an extra hug."

Anderson worked on several rigs, including the Cajun Express, which he helped guide over from Singapore, and the Deepwater Horizon, which he helped bring over from Korea, where it was built.

Greg Williams met Jason in 2001, when they both worked on the Deepwater Horizon, and eventually became good friends. "He was a man's man and always listened when I had issues or when people had honest problems that needed support," said Williams, a project specialist with Transocean. "He called me in September of last year and wanted me to come and take his place as he was going to teach well control in headquarters. I told him that he would be great at that and I would be happy to take his place on the rig. Some things are just not meant to be." Jason eventually wanted to become a "company man" and someday have his own consulting company.

On April 20, 2010, Jason Anderson emptied his locker on the Deepwater Horizon, preparing for his new job. In his last phone call to his wife, he talked about being glad to see his "rig brothers" one last time and how glad he was "to fit all the photo magnets of his family from his locker into his extra large suitcase he had brought just for the move," his obituary said.

Jason's body was not recovered. 

Aaron Dale Burkeen , 37, of Philadelphia Mississippi, whose family called him "Bubba". His favorite TV show was Man vs. Wild, according to Woodson, his sister, and that h e was an avid deer hunter and fisherman. An outdoorsman, Aaron enjoyed hunting and fishing, and had recently purchased a gun for his son because he wanted to instill a love of hunting in him as well. "We'd joke around. I'd say, 'Bubba, when are you going to be somewhere where you need to survive?'" said Woodson. "And he'd say, 'Anything ever happens to me on that rig, I will make it. I'll float to an island somewhere. Y'all don't give up on me, 'cuz I will make it.' A crane operator, Aaron and wife, Rhonda, were raising two children.

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Retired, Robert Arend was president of an AFSCME local from 1997-2007.
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