Hanford Engineer WorksWhen I think of what “inheriting” means it conjures up many different things.  On the upside – a rich relative leaving me a pile of money unexpectedly – yippee!  On the Hanford side I have mixed emotions.  A native American saying goes “we don’t inherit the land from our fathers – we borrow it from our children.”  I think about that saying often when considering Hanford issues.

Here’s my take on one historical element of Hanford: In 1995 during the re-creation of a 1940’s era mess hall dinner, I  was lucky enough to serve dinner to and share conversations with some of the original “Hanford Engineer Works” folks.  I was thunderstruck mightily by their exhibition of such patriotic love of their country – our country – the U.S.A. These folks came from all over the country during World War II to work at Hanford, not knowing the big picture of what was expected to be accomplished there- they only knew they were supporting their soldiers and their country in the best way they could.  Many of the men were superb craftsmen in their individual trades – they were past military drafting age but had worked at their chosen profession for decades and brought all that expertise to Hanford. They lived in the middle of the desert, in tiny trailers if they had families or in barracks if they came alone.  I had been working on the Hanford site since 1988 but meeting and talking with those early workers propelled me to apply for a seat on the Hanford Advisory Board.  I continue to serve on the HAB and although I am retired now I can’t see a future where I am not actively involved in some way at Hanford.

Hopefully I have inherited some of that patriotism and I honor their sacrifices by supporting the best, safest cleanup of the Hanford Site. I’m not judging the decisions made in the past…those can’t be changed. I am eager to move forward so that my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are neither burdened nor endangered by the environmental contamination on the Hanford Site. If there is one thing I have learned in my many years of involvement with Hanford cleanup it’s that it ain’t easy! No issue is all black or white or even clear sometimes…BUT we CAN and WILL make progress if we can stay the course. 

By: Susan Leckband

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