August 12, 2001
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Letters To The Editor
Piketon workers' lives devalued by the system
Sunday, August 12, 2001

On June 21, I attended the town hall meeting at the Pike County Joint Vocational School to get some answers regarding my father's employment at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon.

I left angry, disappointed and in tears. Others also were upset after hearing that their loved ones had no value and that they were considered disposable.

My father was Delbert "Mac'' Johnston, and he worked at the "atomic plant'' in the 1950s and '60s. He developed kidney disease while I was in high school and became disabled at age 52. My mother worked and took care of both of us.

Later, my father developed numerous skin cancers requiring skin grafts and subsequently died from lung cancer. It is inconceivable to me that the atomic-plant representatives could try to put a dollar value on the lives that they deem "eligible'' for the $150,000 benefit.

How did they determine that a loved one's suffering and early death had a value of $150,000? Evidently, according to our legislators, my father and many others had no value whatsoever. Because my father left no dependents under 18 and because my mother had the misfortune of dying just three years after he did, I am not eligible for compensation under this bill.

This is not about money. This is about accountability and accepting responsibility for destroying entire families. This is about answers and closure. Lawmakers don't have to give me money; just give me the truth.

Our legislators would have the public believe that my father didn't count for anything. They would have everyone believe that he outlived his usefulness and that he left no dependents.

But one never gets over the loss of a parent. I wish my kids could have known my dad, and I know he would have been proud of them. My son favors him, I think, and not a day goes by that I don't think of my father.

Diana Johnston Formyduval


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