A trio of notable pieces from Sunday’s New York Times:
1) The devastatingly vivid report by David Barstow, David Rohde, and Stephanie Saul about the Deepwater Horizon blowout disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
On paper, experts and investigators agree, the Deepwater Horizon should have weathered this blowout.
This is the story of how and why it didn’t.
It is based on interviews with 21 Horizon crew members and on sworn testimony and written statements from nearly all of the other 94 people who escaped the rig. Their accounts, along with thousands of documents obtained by The New York Times describing the rig’s maintenance and operations, make it possible to finally piece together the Horizon’s last hours.
What emerges is a stark and singular fact: crew members died and suffered terrible injuries because every one of the Horizon’s defenses failed on April 20. Some were deployed but did not work. Some were activated too late, after they had almost certainly been damaged by fire or explosions. Some were never deployed at all.
Equally vivid are the photographs of the burning rig “provided to the New York Times by a worker on a nearby boat who asked not to be identified.”
2) The Year in Pictures in the Times is dominated by Damon Winter, who captured everything from the devastating earthquake in Haiti . . .
. . . to a devastating deployment to Afghanistan . . .
That’s just heartbreaking.
Who Killed the Disneyland Dream?
OF the many notable Americans we lost in 2010, three leap out as paragons of a certain optimistic American spirit that we also seemed to lose this year. Two you know: Theodore Sorensen, the speechwriter present at the creation of J.F.K.’s clarion call to “ask what you can do for your country,” and Richard Holbrooke, the diplomat who brought peace to the killing fields of Bosnia in the 1990s. Holbrooke, who was my friend, came of age in the Kennedy years and exemplified its can-do idealism. He gave his life to the proposition that there was nothing an American couldn’t accomplish if he marshaled his energy and talents. His premature death — while heroically bearing the crushing burdens of Afghanistan and Pakistan — is tragic in more ways than many Americans yet realize.
But a third representative American optimist who died this year, at age 91, is a Connecticut man who was not a player in great events and whom I’d never heard of until I read his Times obituary: Robbins Barstow, an amateur filmmaker who for decades recorded his family’s doings in home movies of such novelty and quality that one of them, the 30-minute “Disneyland Dream,” was admitted to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress two years ago. That rare honor elevates Barstow’s filmmaking to a pantheon otherwise restricted mostly to Hollywood classics, from “Citizen Kane” to “Star Wars.”
That sky-is-the-limit-if-I-work-hard-enough era is over, Rich concludes. So what now?
The Barstows of 1956 could not have fathomed the outrageous gap between this country’s upper class and the rest of us. America can’t move forward until we once again believe, as they did, that everyone can enter Frontierland if they try hard enough, and that no one will be denied a dream because a private party has rented out Tomorrowland.
Sounds like Fantasyland to us.
But devastating in its own way.
P.S. According to at least one source, the NYT’s David Barstow is the son of Robbins Barstow – which, if true, Frank Rich might have mentioned. The hardworking staff is currently investigating.