One week has gone by since a massive container ship struck a critical support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, sending the structure and a group of construction workers who were fixing potholes on the bridge into the water of the Patapsco River. Of the 8 men who were working on the bridge that night, six have been pronounced dead since last Tuesday. As more details have emerged about the accident, and the city and port authority’s plans for clean-up and reconstruction, The Real News convened a panel of journalists working all sides of this story to get a sense of what we know, what key questions still need to be answered, and what happens next.

Joining this timely discussion are Marc Steiner, host of the Marc Steiner Show on The Real News Network; Real News Network Editor-in-Chief Max Alvarez; Dharna Noor, who leads “Big Oil Uncovered,” a Guardian series focused on the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to thwart climate science, discourse, and policy; and Clara Longo de Freitas, a neighborhood reporter covering East Baltimore communities for the Baltimore Banner.

Studio Production: Adam Coley
Post-Production: David Hebden


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Mel Buer:

Welcome back, my friends, to The Real News Network Podcast. I’m your host, Mel Buer. And before we jump into today’s important conversation, I wanted to take a moment to thank you, our listeners, for tuning in week after week. Whether you’ve got our shows on while you’re making coffee in the morning, put our podcasts on during your commute to and from work, or give us a listen throughout the workday, The Real News Network is committed to bringing you independent journalism that you can count on. We care a lot about what we do, about the communities and movements that we serve with our reporting, and it’s through donations from dedicated listeners like you that we can keep on doing it. Please consider becoming a monthly sustainer of The Real News Network by heading over to And if you want to stay in touch and get updates about our work, then sign up for our free newsletter at As always, we appreciate your support in whatever form it takes.

It’s been a week since a massive container ship struck a critical support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. The collision sent the structure and a group of construction workers who were fixing potholes on the bridge into the water of the Patapsco River last Tuesday. Of the eight men who are working on the bridge that night, six have been pronounced dead since last Tuesday. As more details have emerged about the critical electrical failure on the ship and the city and Port Authority’s plans for cleaning up the wreckage and rebuilding the bridge come to light, we here at The Real News felt it would be prudent to gather some of the journalists working all sides of the story to get a sense of what we know, what key questions still need to be answered, and what happens next.

With me today on the podcast are Marc Steiner, host of The Marc Steiner Show on The Real News Network, and Real News Network Editor-in-Chief Max Alvarez whose coverage of the accident has focused on the immigrant laborers who lost their lives on the bridge and has recently been featured in The Nation and Democracy Now. Also with me is Dharna Noor, a fossil fuels and climate reporter at The Guardian. She leads big Oil Uncovered, a series focused on the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to thwart climate science discourse and policy. She was previously climate producer and reporter at The Boston Globe and earlier she worked as a staff writer at Gizmodo’s climate vertical Earther where she also co-produced a season of the podcast Drilled on the fossil fuel industry’s influence on education. Before that, she led the climate team here at The Real News Network, and her writing has also appeared in publications including In These Times, Jacobin magazine, and Truthout. She was also featured in two books, the World We Need and Future On Fire.

Rounding out our panel is Clara Longo de Freitas who is a neighborhood reporter covering East Baltimore communities for The Baltimore Banner. A graduate of the University of Maryland, she spent most of her college years looking into workers’ conditions amid the COVID pandemic and diversity and equity issues. Her work has been published at The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, The Hill, and more. She is originally from Brazil.

Max, I wanted to start this conversation today with your reporting over the last week. You just came back from East Palestine, Ohio where you and other reporters, environmental activists, and concerned neighbors came together to discuss the ongoing environmental and social disaster that was last year’s train derailment in Ohio. You recently wrote for The Nation on the parallels that you could draw from East Palestine to the Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore, and I think that would be an important piece to highlight here. Dharna, I know that you were also in East Palestine on the anniversary of the derailment this last year. So if you have some thoughts on that as well, I want to open it up with that conversation, Max or Dharna.

Max Alvarez:

Yeah, absolutely. And just first, I just want to say what a tremendous honor it is to be on this call with everyone here. And amidst this tragedy, I do want to say that over the past week, I’ve been tremendously proud of our community and tremendously proud of our fellow journalists in this city. And I think that the way that we have worked together to respond to this tragedy and provide the coverage that our community deserves is really something special. And that is baked into all of our reporting.

I really want folks to know out there that our reporting would not have happened without the folks on this call and so many others. Former Real News reporter, the great Jaisal Noor was running a Zoom command center on the morning of the collapse just trying to provide information to anyone who was covering this. We saw Dharna there on the ground next to the Key Bridge and we’re offering like, “Hey, you need our interview? You want our interview? Take it, get this contact, get that contact.” Clara’s been doing incredible work lifting up the voices of these workers and reporting on the community, and I’ve been trying to share that. She’s been sharing our stuff. We’ve been sharing, citing, promoting each other’s stuff, giving each other the contacts we need. Lisa Snowden at the Baltimore Beat is offered to reprint whatever we publish and we want to do that. So it’s just, I think, a real testament to what nonprofit-driven journalism and collaboration can really do to serve the needs of our people and our city, and it’s a real honor to be here with all of you.

Just quickly picking up on that question, Mel, you’re right. As we all at The Real News know, it was very striking that I was in East Palestine reporting finally on the ground there after a year of reporting on it here at The Real News, interviewing residents. And a year before that, Mel and I were interviewing countless railroad workers amidst their contract fight, all of whom were warning that a catastrophe like East Palestine would happen if the corporate Wall Street-driven disease that has taken over the railroads, and not just the railroads but basically every other facet of our society, was not reigned in.

And lo and behold, on February 3rd, just months after President Joe Biden and both parties and Congress conspired to force a contract down railroad workers’ throats, a Norfolk Southern bomb train derails in the backyards of the families of East Palestine. Three days later, the disastrous and unnecessary decision was made and pushed by Norfolk Southern to vent and burn five cars worth of toxic vinyl chloride, as spewing these toxins into the air, exposing these residents to devastating health effects that they are still feeling now. They are bioaccumulating these chemicals. They are racking up health bills. They are losing their jobs, losing their health insurance.

It is really a horrifying situation there in East Palestine that we’ve been trying to cover and it is all about corporate greed, government negligence. It is part and parcel of the 40-plus-year-long process of deregulation, disinvestment, corporate domination. The devaluation of labor and life itself in this country is what is making catastrophes like East Palestine, the Baltimore Bridge, the Boeing planes coming out of the sky, the BP oil spill, and so many other atrocities that are occurring around our country right now, not just on the labor side, but poisoning our communities. That’s why the first text that I received on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after I got back from East Palestine, were from members of the community in East Palestine expressing solidarity with us, saying that they saw so many residences in what they went through with what we were going through.

Again, there’s so many things that I’ll say in just 40 seconds here and then I’ll shut up. The questions, I don’t want to presume that East Palestine and Baltimore are the same. The train derailment was not the ship crash that collapsed the bridge, and the investigative work to figure out the root causes of this are ongoing. But again, what I think was readily apparent to me and the folks in East Palestine is that this is an obvious breaking of the social contract between citizens, labor, business, and government, which was supposed to be that all of this dangerous stuff, the trains running through our backyards, the ships going through our rivers, and the factories that are in our communities, all of that was supposed to be allowed only if there were layers of nonprofit-driven protection and maintenance in place to ensure things like East Palestine and Baltimore and Boeing and BP don’t happen, and yet they’re happening more and more frequently.

And that is the problem. To say nothing of the containers that fell into the Patapsco River and whether or not those are going to contaminate us, obviously people in East Palestine who are still seeing the chemical sheen in their creeks from the derailment are looking at the chemical sheens in the Patapsco River and asking, “Do you guys know what are in those containers?” The workers on the bridge did not get a warning about their impending deaths, just like workers on that Norfolk Southern train did not receive a warning from the hotbox detectors about the ambient rise and heat in that faulty bearing before it was too late. There’s so many residences here that I think should guide us towards the questions we need to be investigating right now, but it was really stark for me to have 24 hours in between getting back from East Palestine to the bridge collapsing, and it’s just been a world we never sense.

Mel Buer:

Dharna, do you have anything to add?

Dharna Noor:

Yeah. I think that the similarities and the differences between what happened in East Palestine and what happened just last week in Baltimore are both really interesting. I agree with Max that I think that obviously there’s a lot to look into in terms of the role of corporate unaccountability here. I specifically want to shout out some reporter that The Lever has been doing, showing that Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, has spent his time as governor or previously spent his time as the previous governor of Maryland pushing for larger ships to go through Baltimore’s harbor. And I think it’s not surprising, I guess, that this kind of horrible disaster would occur at some point.

That said, I think I and so many other people when this disaster first happened did wonder like, “Oh, is this related to our crumbling infrastructure in our country?” And I think what engineers have said is that the bridge was actually in decent condition, but whether or not you should be able to have a bridge that was built in the ’70s next to this ginormous cargo ship of this kind is really another question. And I also think that in both of these cases, there are just really important questions of social infrastructure to be raised. Had the workers on the bridge who tragically fell to their death during the collision, had they been union, had they been higher paid, this disaster still could have happened. And that’s important to note. I don’t think that it’s a question of corporate unaccountability alone.

But that said, it’s obviously no huge surprise that it is often our immigrant workers of color who are often bearing the brunt of the most dangerous social situations. Non-union construction work is still one of the most dangerous kinds of labor that we have in this country. And so I think that while there are a lot more questions to ask about what changes in social infrastructure should come from this, I think like East Palisade, it’s really, as Max said, a situation that shows us the breaking of that social contract that we are supposed to have with business and with infrastructure. Whether or not this particular case was caused by crumbling infrastructure, by horrible labor conditions, whether or not this would’ve happened otherwise is a different question. But I do think that our social infrastructure tells us a lot about who’s going to bear the worst brunt of these disasters.

Mel Buer:

Right. Clara, you’ve spent some time in the last week learning more along with your team at The Baltimore Banner, learning more about the victims of this accident, the men who lost their lives on the bridge. Can you let our listeners know a little bit more about who these working men were, who they were, where they’re from, who their families are, and the conversations that you’ve been having over the last week about these laborers?

Clara Longo de Freitas:

Yeah. These were all men who were in their thirties and forties. Most of them were married. Most of them had kids. Some of them had even grandchildren. They were from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala in Mexico. And these were very clearly men who were working at least one job, multiple jobs sometimes, to be able to provide to their families, to be able to provide not only to their spouse and children, but also to send money back to their home countries.

I talked to Hector and he is the nephew of Mynor Lopez, and he told me that because of the work that Mynor was doing, he and his I think 11 cousins at this point were all able to go to school because Mynor was working and Mynor would send money to his parents and to his sisters, and then the cousins didn’t have to worry about working because they had the food on the table. They had enough money to be able to survive. So these were clearly men who were, I don’t want to say survival mode, but almost in that sense. They were just trying to provide as much as they could to their families, and taking these jobs that, like Dharna said, they’re pretty dangerous. They are jobs that they’re essential but they don’t always come with benefits. They don’t always come with protections to ensure that something like this wouldn’t impact their families in such way.

Mel Buer:

Max, you’ve also had some conversations at Democracy Now and in your piece for The Nation talking about the reality of many immigrant laborers in this country and the importance of underscoring the conditions that many of these workers are laboring under in order to provide for their families. Is there anything else you’d like to add as we talk about these working men who tragically lost their lives on the bridge last week?

Max Alvarez:

I would, and again, I would point people to Clara’s incredible reporting for The Banner for more details on these men’s lives, but just to name the five of the six who have been identified as of right now. One is still as of yet unidentified. Multiple bodies are still in the Patapsco River and are going to apparently be there for a while while their families grieve. And our hearts go out to them. But what we know so far about the fallecidos, the man who passed away, is that their names were Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, age 38 from Honduras, Miguel Luna, age 49 from El Salvador, Jose Mynor Lopez, age 35 from Guatemala, Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, age 26, also from Guatemala, Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, age 35 from Mexico. And the sixth unidentified worker is believed to also be from Mexico as Clara said.

And I sat down and recorded a really incredible podcast with multiple heads of immigrant and Latino justice organizations here in the city, and that podcast is going to be out at The Real News by the time you guys hear this. And I would highly encourage you to do so, and I beg you to please be patient with the Spanish and English translations because we’re trying to show you what it takes to have these dialogues with people who don’t speak the same language as you even though you’re working alongside each other in the city.

I sat down with Ricardo Ortiz from the Centro de Los Derechos del Migrante, Susana Barrios, vice president of the Latino Racial Justice Circle, Carlos Crespo who volunteers at the Centro de Apoyo Para La Superracion del Inmigrante or CAPSI, and Lucia Islas, president of the Comité Latino del Baltimore. These are incredible folks who did tell us a bit more about what we currently know. Obviously right now we are trying to give the families as much space as possible because they are grieving an impossible loss. And even though the media is going to forget about them as we move on from this, their struggles are going to be lifelong.These families have lost something that can’t be replaced, and they’re going to be dealing with the effects of that for the rest of their lives. And these groups here in the city are working to make sure that they’re supported, and I think that’s heroic and deserves to be uplifted.

But what they also revealed to us is one detail that really sticks out in my mind that really connects Baltimore to East Palestine is that, as we mentioned, these were immigrant workers. They were working for a non-union contractor, Brawner Builders, that was contracting with the state of Maryland. And so I would point people to Robert Kuttner’s piece in The American Prospect asking the right questions about why we use contractors and subcontractors in this way to do what was previously government work. But that’s a question for another day. All I’ll say is that that contractor-contractee relationship is exactly the relationship that businesses exploit to exploit undocumented immigrants, workers, returning citizens, people who are already living beneath the floorboards of our society.

They are the ones who are preyed upon by contractors around the country, and that’s why you end up with children younger than my foster daughter working in Alabama parts suppliers for Hyundai or picking tomatoes in slave conditions on farms in Florida, or cleaning bone saws and other hazardous equipment in meatpacking plants in the Midwest. This is a rampant, and it’s not just in construction. The abuse of contractors and subcontractors and particularly the immigrant workers who are abused by that system is systemic in this country.

But what I would also say that connects Baltimore and East Palestine is that what we knew on the day of the crash on Tuesday was that two men were recovered from the water who alive, and one of whom went to emergency care. The other reportedly refused emergency services. And what I was told by members of the community, including the folks that I interviewed from the Latino Justice organizations, is that that person, as far as we know, did not have healthcare and that we suspect that’s why they rejected emergency services.

Just imagine the mindset you would have to be in to fall into the Patapsco River after it crashed, going through the most traumatic experience I have to imagine of your life. Although people who make the trek up here as migrants go through a lot of horrors as well. So one of the most horrifying things you’ve ever gone through, and then to refuse a hospital trip because you live in America and you don’t have health insurance at the same time that residents of East Palestine who are citizens are also piling up these ailments from being poisoned by a company that’s been deregulated by the government and they don’t have health care either.

This is just such a damning indictment on our country writ large, and yet the immigrant workers are currently being vilified by part of the country and by Donald Trump as, quote, poisoning the blood of our country. And what are we actually doing? We’re filling your potholes at night. We were the ones, our brothers and sisters, were keeping the economy afloat during COVID without the governmental protections of stimulus checks and things like that. So a lot of these workers are still dealing with long COVID. They died from COVID keeping the economy running, and yet they are vilified in this country, and it’s a really sick situation.

Mel Buer:

Important points to bring up there, Max, and the conversation around immigrant labor in all its forms will continue to be a focal point for the US Labor Movement, I imagine. I do want to bring this conversation a little bit around to some of the cleanup efforts, if you’ll permit me. This next question is for Dharna. You’ve had excellent coverage of the accident in the last week. That’s included conversations about the dangers of leaving that ship in the harbor. It can’t go anywhere right now because it still has pieces of the bridge on top of it. And what’s being done to shore up the ship, what’s happening to its cargo, as I understand it, some of the cargo is full of batteries and other corrosive chemicals that have not yet fallen into the river, but there is a danger for that as they start cleaning up the river and the harbor. So what can you tell us about through your coverage with The Guardian and what stories you’re working on, what can you tell us about the wreckage and the cleanup efforts and what’s going to come next?

Dharna Noor:

Yeah. The cleanup efforts, I think, are leaving us in a bizarre catch-22 situation. I should start by saying actually that in many ways Baltimore averted a number of different worst case scenarios. One of the biggest dangers that can happen environmentally speaking during a major cargo ship crash like this is the hull can break and that can send fuel oil into the water. Fuel oil, obviously a fossil fuel that is extremely toxic to marine life and to birds and also to people. And people in this case, especially being folks who are actually working on the ships and in some cases dock workers if the wind is blowing in certain directions and things like this. But that did not happen. Still could happen because as you’re saying, the ship is still, they’ve not completed the removal of the ship from the water, but it looks like we’ve averted that scenario and that’s going to be okay. So that’s a really good side.

Also, in terms of the actual contaminants right now, the Unified Command, which is the group of federal and state agencies and environmental consultants that are working on this, say that they haven’t found volatile organic compounds or flammable vapors in the air around the ship. That’s another indication that there’s not fuel oil spilling into the water. And also that there’s not a bunch of corrosives that were in the ship that have leaked out, and that’s another really good sign. However, there are still some pretty awful and corrosive and scary chemicals that are on the ship. Right now, there’s been 14 containers that were on the ship that were destroyed. They were primarily full of things like soaps and perfumes and essential oils that are damaging potentially but probably not overtly harmful. I spoke with one expert who noted that since the Key Bridge sat on the wide mouth of the Patasco River, it’s likely that those contaminants will be quickly dispersed. So again, averting a worst case scenario.

But as you said, Mel, there are other things on the ship that we really do not want to be getting into our water. There’s lithium ion batteries, which are super flammable and can create a number of different ecosystem hazards if they fall out of the containers that they’re in that are on the ship into the water, and that would be really bad. So on the one hand, really, really important to get the ship out. On the other hand, doing that too quickly, I think, could pose some really, really serious labor concerns because right now, the ship is in part still on water because it’s really, really difficult to even under the best conditions, it’s really difficult for divers to be in the Baltimore Harbor. It’s super dark. We talked to one diver at The Guardian who said that even if it’s bright daylight outside, diving in the harbor is basically just like you’re feeling around with your hands. You’re not really able to see anything. And there’s a bunch of sediment from the disaster that’s in the water right now, and that makes it even harder to see.

And so while it’s really important to get the ship out of the water, we also don’t want to do that in a way that’s putting workers at risk, a horrible catch-22s kind of situation. Again, I don’t want to fearmonger or sow unnecessary horror here or anything because it does seem like we’ve averted some worst case scenarios. But I think still pretty important to be aware of the potential environmental contamination and know what questions to ask in the future.

The other thing I’ll note is there are many residents who, I would venture to say with a very good reason, who’ve had their trust in officials eroded when it comes to environmental contamination. There are folks, for instance, in the neighborhood of Curtis Bay, which is not far from the fallen bridge, which is a poor and working class community, majority of color community who complained for a decade that coal dust from a nearby coal terminal was plaguing their neighborhood. They said that it was all over their houses, all over their cars. It was giving them asthma. It was making it really hard to breathe, probably linked to a bunch of other health issues. And again, they raised this for a decade, but the state did not officially acknowledge the problem until late last year.

And so whether or not there actually is environmental contamination is one question. What officials are actually doing to make that clear to residents who are nearby is another one. I think a lot of people are just going to be looking for even more transparency than you would normally look, for ongoing testing, a lot of community input. It’s going to be really, really important, I think, to build that level of trust, especially when you’re coming in with a lower hand in some ways because of past mistakes.

Mel Buer:

I want to bring you in here, Marc. As someone who’s lived in Baltimore for your whole life, you’ve covered issues like this in the city for decades. What’s your perspective here as you see this reporting coming out of The Guardian with Dharna, and the conversations that have been happening about what happens next with the harbor, with potential contamination, with the looming labor crisis that’s happening at the port that is now closed? What are your thoughts about that?

Marc Steiner:

Well, there’s a lot here. I think in the last few days, I’ve talked to a former president of the Longshore Union who doesn’t live in Baltimore anymore who may be joining us this week. I’ve talked to a sea captain who then worked for the port. And I talked to another friend who now lives in Maine who used to be a tugboat captain in the harbor. I wanted to get some… And then I started reading all these things about from the Structural Engineering Society. I’m trying to get my hands around what just happened, these tragedies with men losing their lives and the clip, the bridge just collapsing.

Well, a couple of things are happening here. A, there was some serious structural issues in that bridge that had not been shored up because we do not invest in infrastructure. We don’t invest in making the bridges safe for the futures. This was built in the 1970s, 1977 if I have right. And there are many things that have changed in those years. There’s a thing called a bumper. They didn’t have the right bumpers around the bottom of the bridge. When the ship hit the bridge, it began to make a collapse. Things that should have been taken care of, that shouldn’t have existed, that happened. You have to raise questions like why wasn’t the tugboat there? Why wasn’t tugboat getting that ship under the vision out? Why did they cut back on that? The whole thing with Larry Hogan asking for larger ships to come in out of the port with no safety regulations around that effort.

So there are a lot of things that have led to disaster. Right now, this affected California because they’re now looking at all their bridges saying, “Our bridges are not structurally safe. The same thing could happen here to multiple bridges up and down the California coast.” And it all goes back to not investing in the infrastructure in this country, which could, A, put people to work, and B, make us all safer. And so there are a lot of questions like that I think that are just now coming to the fore. And I was really shocked when I read the opinions of structural engineers from around the country in their society paper, and they were going back and forth in this dialogue about just how lax we’ve been in making sure that our bridges are safe and can survive a hit like that. Again, if they had had the bumpers around the bottom of the trusses and other things, it would not have collapsed.

Max Alvarez:

Right. And if I can just add something to that really quick, is that is happening at the same time that everything else is getting bigger and heavier with fewer workers on it. There’s another great report for The Guardian by another former Real News contributor, the great Michael Sainato. Shout out to Michael and Dharna both doing incredible work. But Michael wrote this great piece recently after talking to another official from the Port Workers Union.

And Michael writes and I quote, “As shipping vessels have grown and crew sizes have been reduced, maintenance and upkeep issues are often ignored. A report by the United Nations in 2021 found cargo ship capacity sizes had increased by 155% from 2006 to 2020. Safety incidents of large vessels globally increased 9% in 2022 and 7% in 2021.” Again, that’s why I bring up the railroads because whether it’s a bridge or whether it’s the rail lines, what we are doing is we are making the ships that pass under them larger with more crap on it, with fewer workers on it, just like we’re making the trains longer and heavier and carrying more hazardous material with only two people on that. And the railroads have been trying to get it down to one person crews to say nothing of all the staff. They’re cutting, checking the track, checking the cars, all that stuff. This is why I see these as part of a larger historical process.

Marc Steiner:

Let me just jump in what you just said, a follow-up or something. One of the things I think that’s really important that may come out of this for America to deal with, for places like the Real News to cover is the fight to have regulations and infrastructure built and regulations around our transportation systems in this country that are lacking. Those men wouldn’t have died most likely if the bridge was secure. The men wouldn’t have died if there were regulations in place to protect that bridge and protect their lives. And if they were union workers and not people who were forced to work on a bridge without union protections. All those things are part of the battle going on that’s actually not being reported on, that is unseen, that I think is really critical to the future. I’d also get on the-

Mel Buer:

Oh, I want-

Marc Steiner:

I’ll stop. Go ahead.

Mel Buer:

No, sorry to cut you off there.

Marc Steiner:

That’s fine.

Mel Buer:

I do want to say that that battle has come to the fore, at least in the sense of the pressure that the railroad workers have been taking straight up to the highest levels of regulatory agencies. The Department of Transportation today issued its final rule on two-person train crews, and it’s a minimum now. They need to have two-person train crews in order to run these trains, which is ultimately a good thing, but a bit of a side conversation that maybe we can have another podcast on later in the week.

The one thing that I want to do with the last seven or so minutes that we have here is really just to open up the discussion to all of you. You are all local to Baltimore. You have been putting untold hours into covering this tragedy. And Dharna, Clara, and Max, you were on the ground within hours after the accident, speaking with members of the community, with neighbors, with church officials, with activists, with experts, and listening to the co-workers of the men who lost their lives on the bridge. I think a really good way to end this conversation is really just to talk about the community response, how folks are feeling in the wake of this disaster, what it means for the community going forward, what it means for the local economy going forward, and how can we as listeners at The Real News and elsewhere, how can we help? How can we be able to help you rebuild? What can we do to alleviate some of this suffering and to help you grieve? It’s open to anyone. Clara or Dharna, if you want to take it first, that’d be great.

Clara Longo de Freitas:

I can go first. Well, one thing that I do want to say is that this is a community that rallies together in times of tragedy. I don’t know if you guys know about this or if we’ve covered this in the past, but there was a fire earlier in March, late February, that three people died. Dozens were displaced, and they were all Latinos. And the community put together, they helped find homes for the people. They raised funds. So the community is used to this response and they always rally together. It’s very much something that it’s a sense of community that is very embedded.

I think there’s a lot of grief right now. There’s a lot of sense of helplessness because they want to support their family. But for a really long time, we weren’t even sure who the workers were. We weren’t sure what could be done. So I think right now, everyone is leaving that mode and people are beginning to raise money to help with funeral costs, to help with move the bodies back to their home countries, the bodies that were able to be found. So people are reacting in a very… People have a large solidarity for these families right now.

Dharna Noor:

Yeah. Clara, I’m glad that you mentioned the work that some of the Latino racial justice and immigration rights organizations in Baltimore have been doing around that house fire. I think it’s really interesting that something that officials have been saying and with good reason in the wake of this disaster is that Baltimore is really strong and really resilient. But I’ve been really curious to see what that actually means. And talking to Susana Barrios, who Max also I think has been speaking with, who is the vice president of the Latino Racial Justice Circle, she said, “Yeah, we are strong, but it’s because we’ve had to deal with disasters before, especially in our community which has faced so much hardship.” And so it’s no surprise really that they were able to really quickly put together, it was almost $100,000 that they raised for the victims’ families within six hours of the tragedy, which is pretty incredible.

But also just saying that Baltimore is strong, I think, doesn’t tell the whole story. It also is communities are strong because you have to be strong in the absence of real state support, real protections from governments. Without that base of social infrastructure that you’re supposed to rely on, you have to create your own, which is really inspiring. And then also really, it’s really awful that that’s the only sort of solution that we have. We shouldn’t have to have GoFundMe accounts to fund help for families that die from… I’m so sorry. Here, I’ll start that sentence over. We shouldn’t have to be having GoFundMe accounts to fund funerals and services for people who die in disasters that the state is at least in some way responsible for. And I think that really, it’s really, again, a really inspiring story and also one that should not have to exist.

But that said, Baltimore has been really, really resilient and so many communities have come together in a really inspiring way. Seeing restaurants donate food, seeing people come in from out of town to ensure that the victim’s families have places to stay, seeing the way that certain workers at the Red Cross have been putting their all into making sure that the victim’s families have everything they need, seeing the way that first responders have been taken care of, seeing the way that unions have banded together to make sure that their workers will be protected in the face of lost jobs in the coming weeks, I think has been really, really inspiring. And I want to shout out Baltimore for that resilience, for that strength. And also would love to imagine a future where we could have the kind of state support that we actually need and don’t simply need to rely on ourselves in order to make sure that we can survive tragedies like this.

Marc Steiner:

And I just want to throw in real quick that I think one of the things we have to do now is to really keep our politicians, political leaders, feet to the fire. What are you going to do about investing in infrastructure? What are you going to do about making sure that people are paid union wages and unions have a say in what’s happening in building that infrastructure and putting people to work who need the jobs in our communities?

Max Alvarez:

And that workers like these get citizenship.

Marc Steiner:

Right. Because there are questions that they cannot be allowed to run away from. This should not have happened. The bumper should have been in place. The bridge should not have collapsed. There should have been inspections on that boat before it was allowed to, ship, excuse me, before it was allowed to go out. There’s so many variables here that the lack of oversight by our government for any safety of the harbor, all of that is affecting what just happened. That shouldn’t have happened. Those people shouldn’t have died. The bridge should not have collapsed if the right systems were in place to ensure the safety of all of us. That’s part of the problem.

Max Alvarez:

Right. And a ship experiencing that level of propulsion failure 30 minutes after leaving port should not have been allowed to leave port.

Marc Steiner:


Max Alvarez:

A rail locomotive experiencing that level of bearing failure, carrying that many hazardous materials through the backyards of regular people, should not have been allowed to be on the track in the first place. And workers on that bridge, at least the foreman should have had a direct line to emergency dispatch in case something like this happened. Like you said, Marc, there’s so many layers and failures here, and we’re going to continue to cover this. And I know that Clara and Dharna and our other great journalists, comrades in the city are going to keep doing that. And once again, I just want to stress what an honor it is to be serving the community alongside these folks, not being in competition with them.

And I just want to implore folks out there to share our work, support our work, because we’re going to keep covering this but we can’t do it without you. But I also wanted to say that the folks at the Latino Racial Justice Circle who began the original GoFundMe to support the families of the man who died on that bridge, as Dharna and Clara and I have all reported, they were quickly overwhelmed by the generosity from that fundraiser, which is itself a really positive thing to come out of such a horrifying situation. So they wanted to hand over the fundraising efforts to the city. They wanted it to be totally transparent. They wanted to make sure all that money went straight to the families. And so if you are out there and you want to donate, that fundraising, that fundraiser is actually now being run through the Baltimore Civic Fund. You can find it by typing in Baltimore Civic Fund, the Key Bridge Emergency Response Fund. We’ll link to it in the show notes, and we’ll also link to Dharna and Clara and my work, of course.

And I just wanted to also add one thing to what Dharna said, is that I sat down at a table in Fells Point at El Taquito Mexicano to talk with Ricardo, Susana, Carlos, Lucia, Claudia, and Victor, the owners of the restaurant. And even my own foster daughter, Norma, was there with me along with my wife, Meg. We were all sitting at a table talking about this. And one thing I just want to impress upon people listening to this is when I looked these people in the face and I asked them the same question you just asked us, Mel, I could see deep in their eyes a look that I know all too well, that I know from my own family, that I have felt in my own eyes. They are doing everything they can. They are strong as hell. They’re all volunteering for multiple different organizations. Carlos himself, he and his wife have a daughter with special needs, and yet they still are superheroes like giving everything that they have to the community.

But what he said while looking into my eyes is, “We are tired. We are tired of doing this work because no one else will. And we are tired of doing it while still having to prove to this country that we are just as human as you are, that there are people who wait for us to come home just like you do. And they deserve, those families deserve to be whole just as much as yours, whether your families are in East Palestine or elsewhere in Baltimore or California or anywhere. We need to find each other on those basic human levels, not as immigrants or citizens, union or non-union, Democrat or Republican, but just people living on this earth trying to do our best to make a life for ourselves and our family. And we have a right to breathe the air and our children have a right to play in the grass and play in the water without worrying that they’re going to get cancers from it or worry that they have to climb over or through rail lines just to get to school in the morning because they’re so long and they’re blocking their way to school.”

That’s where we really are right now. Things have gotten so bad in this country that so many people feel justice forgotten as this community, as the folks in East Palestine. But I don’t know, maybe this will finally be enough for us to realize that we have so much more in common than the corporate media and the political parties would lead us to believe. And I think Baltimore has shown that this week.

Mel Buer:

Well said, Max. Well, that’s all the time we have today, but thank you so much, everyone, for coming on and talking about your very important reporting. The door is always open to come back and talk about more things that you turn up in your respective investigations. Thank you.

Marc Steiner:

Thank you.

Dharna Noor:

Thanks for having us. Really an honor to help-

Clara Longo de Freitas:

Thank you so much.

Dharna Noor:

… you today.

Mel Buer:

That’s it for us here at The Real News Network Podcast. Once again, I’m your host, Mel Buer. If you love today’s episode, be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get notified when the next one drops. You can find us on most platforms, including Spotify and YouTube. And if you’d like to get in touch with me, you can find me on most social media, my DMs are always open, or send me a message via email at Send your tips, comments, questions, episode ideas, gripes, whatever you like. I’d love to hear from you. Thank you so much for sticking around, and I’ll see you next time.

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Mel Buer is an associate editor and labor reporter for The Real News Network. Prior to joining TRNN, she worked as a freelance reporter covering Midwest labor struggles, including reporting on the 2021 Kellogg's strike and the 2022 railroad workers struggle. In the past she has reported extensively on Midwest protests and movements during the 2020 uprising and is currently researching and writing a book on radical media for Or Books. Follow her on Twitter or send her a message at