Dear Mr. Worthington,
My Uncle Thomas C. Henderson is dying from lung cancer caused by asbestos.
He was a boilermaker. To see him go from a strong healthy hard working
man to frail weak and sickly man is both heartbreaking and unjust. He
worked hard all his life and always lived life to the fullest. He didn't
deserve this fate.
It is so hard to watch someone die who shouldn't. He should be enjoying
his retirement, working on his books, playing with his grand-daughter
and doing things with his family and friends, but instead he is laid up
in a hospital bed struggling for every breath, suffering through chemo
and radiation and so drugged that he doesn't even know we are there.
It is so unfair!
I love my uncle, he is one of my heroes. He is part of what made America
great. He has always been a fighter and now he is fighting the fight of
his life. Eighteen months ago, they (his doctors) gave him 2 months to
live and he proved them wrong, but I'm afraid this time he truly is
in the End-game. This whole thing has angered me to the point of violence,
but I know that's not how we settle things in a democracy.
The people and companies that caused this as well as all the other deaths
should be made to pay, (my dad's cousin Bucky Woods also a Boiler
Maker, died from lung cancer caused by asbestos). They should not be able
to hide behind bankruptcies and lawyers while continuing to create their
poison and death. Families should not have to suffer because of the greed
of these companies.
What are we to do? I see all these law suits and settlements and that's
all well and good, but it can never cover the pain and misery asbestos
and the companies that make it have caused. It can never bring back our
loved ones. I would get more personal satisfaction exposing the people
responsible for this injustice to their own products so they can suffer
the same fate as my Uncle and other asbestos victims. But as a Christian,
an eye for an eye goes against Christ's teachings, so what are we
to do? How do we deal with this? I'm at a loss.
My dad worked as Boiler Maker and has also been diagnosed with asbestosis.
He said when they were working on blast furnaces and boilers, asbestos
would be coming down like snow, that some workers during breaks would
make a mattress and pillow out of asbestos and take a cat nap. The whole
thing sounds to me like some sort of vision of hell. These men never knew
the dangers they were being exposed to. The worst they thought could happen
was that they might fall or be crushed.
So far my Dad has not shown any symptoms, but who is to say what the future
holds for him. Medical science has nothing to offer and their cures are
almost worse than the disease.
I don't know what I'm asking of you. I guess I'm just venting,
but what can I do? How can I help? I'm an artist, what can I do to
help fight this evil? This is the first time I've ever investigated
the subject of asbestos and I'm glad to see that there are people
like you fighting this. May God bless you in your work against this monster.
Thank you for your time.
Donald Patrick Henderson
June 30, 1998
Thank you for responding so quickly to my E-mail, but sad to say it was
too late for my Uncle Tom, he passed away quietly yesterday surrounded
by loved ones at 4 PM at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in his
beloved Oakland where he grew up. It was a sad ending to such a wonderful
man. He never complained or felt sorry for himself. He took this like
the brave man that he was.
He had lied about his age and enlisted in the Navy at age 17 in WWII. He
was on DE700, the USS Currier and was part of a Hunter Killer Group that
hunted U-Boats in the Atlantic, later they were involved in the invasion
of Southern France. After that he was stationed in North Africa, and after
that he served on an LST in the Pacific. After his time in the Navy, he
joined the Army and was stationed stateside.
In his life he raised 3 daughters, he traveled the world, he sat atop the
Great Pyramid at Giza, explored the Valley of the Kings and he claimed
to be the only man who knew how the pyramids were built. He was a very
creative and talented man and I'm proud to say he was my Uncle. He
used to proudly boast that "We are Hendersons" and as a child
I never knew what it meant, but as an adult I learned from him and my
Dad that it meant never backing down from a fight, to always do the right
thing despite the pressures to do wrong, to walk tall and to always play
the cards God gives you no matter how bad the hand, to make the best of
life and don't waste it, to always work hard and that the price of
doing something is always less than the cost of doing nothing.
He worked most of his life as a Boiler Maker here in Western Pennsylvania.
Most of the family had either been Railroaders with the Pennsylvania Railroad
or Boiler Makers. Boiler and blast furnace making was almost the family
business. My Dad, his brothers and their uncles and cousins were all Boiler
Makers. The Henderson and Woods Families worked every major boiler or
blast furnace project in Western PA.
I remember as a child, when the steel mills were still working, driving
by on the Parkway and them saying with pride "We helped build that".
Names like Clearfield still stick in my head. I was just a small child
when they worked at Clearfield. It must have been a big job, because they
were gone a lot. There was always great excitement when they came home.
They were the hardest working men I've ever known, my heroes. I was
always so amazed at the stories and even dreamed of being a Boiler Maker
like them, even though I had no idea what that was. I just saw the fire
breathing Monsters on the Mon (the steel mills along the Monongahela River
east of Pittsburgh) and was amazed that my Dad and Uncle Tom built them.
Luckily for me, God had other plans and I became the first generation
not to be a Boiler Maker.
I see you as a Freedom Fighter against asbestos. Alone we are just victims,
but together we could be an army.
In the Irish Republican movement the Irish Hunger Striker Bobby Sands,
MP said: "That we all have a part to play" The Hendersons are
ready to play their part. You just say the word.
Sincerely and at your service,
Donald Patrick Henderson & Family
*** POSTED JULY 1, 1998 ***