The Star - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

The Star

In the distance, behind a sign advertising 3,300 acres for lease,
A steel mill is meeting what free market economists call
Creative destruction.

Two years after the shutdown, the searing pain of those who tended fiery furnaces
and raging machines is still raw.

Some have comforted themselves with clichéd memes about new doors opening
when others close. But everyone knows even they would go back in a heartbeat.

Back to co-workers who had their backs, shared their pride as the hardened
Industrial Soldiers of Sparrows Point,

Encircled by the Soft and the unappreciative.

Now the impotence is theirs.

Facebook posts chronicle each implosion as the
Salvage firm clears the island of its rust, violently uprooting storied buildings where
so many thrived and others died.

The coup de grace will be delivered by dynamite to the “Big L,”
once the largest blast furnace in the Western Hemisphere.
Everyone asks “When?”

The Brinks truck has already come to pick up precious metals that had collected on
the floor of the furnace, bubbling out of ore that was once mounded in dark
pyramids on adjacent ships and shore.

After the charges are set and the massive structure lies in wretched defeat, the
Salvage firm will tally up the price of its remains on the spot market for scrap.

And, in an insult as vicious as the implosion itself, some say the hulking and gnarled
Payload could be sold to fire the electric furnaces of competitors who haughtily spat
at Sparrows Point and its union.

But what about the Star, ask the workers?

The Star,
Proudly erected by the plant’s ironworkers,
Topping the furnace each Christmas.

The Star,
Towering.
Powerful.
Proclaiming.
To gritty neighbors and
Passing strangers in their BMW’s and Porsches:
Sparrows Point is alive!
Open for business!
Undefeated!
Still strong!

What will happen to the star, they ask?

The star that hallowed this special place,

Before the Salvage firm came.


About the author

Len Shindel

Len Shindel began working at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Plant in 1973, where he was a union activist and elected representative in local unions of the United Steelworkers, frequently publishing newsletters about issues confronting his co-workers. His nonfiction and poetry have been published in the “Other Voices” section of the Baltimore Evening Sun, The Pearl, The Mill Hunk Herald, Pig Iron and other publications. After leaving Sparrows Point 11 years ago, Shindel, a White Marsh resident and grandfather of seven, began working as a communication specialist for an international union based in Washington, D.C. He enjoys frequent weekends in Garrett County, cross-country skiing, kayaking, hiking and fly-fishing. Contact the author.
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