by Lauren Lightningstorm on July 12, 2013


So this is some arrogant, cowardly bullshit.

Ed Burkhardt, president of the parent company of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, whose oil-laden train derailed and plummeted into Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 50 people, finally showed up — five days later — to bestow his thoughts about this horror on the town.

No doubt Burkhardt screamed into Lac-Mégantic, desperate to hold his pitiful press conference before city officials informed the distraught families that the bodies of 30 people who were still missing after the resulting inferno were unrecoverable and presumed dead. You know, because he’s such a sensitive guy. I mean, waiting until after the recovery of corpses had ceased before addressing the families of those who died when five flaming cars of crude oil slammed into their neighborhood bar at one o’clock in the morning would be simply ghoulish. And Ed Burkhardt is a businessman, not a monster.

I’ll just let him tell you why he took so long to show up and give what he calls his “apology”:

“Why wasn’t I here earlier? When this occurred, I had to ask myself: . . . Where can I be most effective for what we have to do? We had a dozen railway managers that descended on Lac-Mégantic on Saturday and Sunday. . . . What was I doing at that time? I was working 20-hour days at my desk, trying to deal with the press and with lining up contractors, insurance companies, and others to deal with this disaster.”

Besides, he adds, on Saturday, “first responders had this community occupied.”

Burkhardt dripped with annoyance and paternalistic business-speak throughout the conference, as he played a sometimes snickering game of Mother-May-I? with reporters and insisted that he had apologized.

Burkhardt is at pains to tell you that he feels “absolutely awful” about this whole thing, and who can doubt it? But his comments show absolutely no concern for anyone who died or for any of the loved ones who mourn them. No, his abiding preoccupation seems to be the company’s insurers — you know, since he mentions them in almost the same farting breath that he uses to express the rabbit turds of sympathy for the town that his company blew the fuck up.

“We’re working with our insurers. . . . There’s no question about the damages that have occurred. . . . We don’t have a total on this in any sense.”

As crowd members called him a murderer and reporters grew ever more agog at his callousness, Burkhardt’s impatience with the whole situation only bloomed.

“Do you understand why, sir? Do you understand why they are mad at you?!” asked one reporter.

“I don’t think that’s any secret,” he replied. “Yes, I understand why they are mad. And because I happen to be the chairman of the board of directors of the company, I guess it’s my role to collect all this criticism and so on . . .”

When asked if he felt sorry about the accident:

“I think I’ve already responded to that, and I will again. . . . It has my utmost sympathy. Beyond that, I don’t know what to say.”

Then there’s this stunner:

“Have you visited the city? Have you been there and seen the . . . the . . . ?”

Burkhardt (interrupting):
“I have seen the pictures of it. Which, uh . . . uh . . . there’s lots of pictures.”

But he did find other things to say, like hiding behind managers and attempting to elicit pity from his audience by explaining that his company had been hit really hard in the financial meltdown of 2008. And then there’s the bizarre dodge that he couldn’t give the town the answers they demanded because the company “recently lost the office they had been using.”


lacmeganticYour train incinerated thirty whole buildings in this town and left people sheltering in a school. The residents of Lac-Mégantic now have to boil their water for at least five minutes before they can drink it because your gigantic, rolling petroleum bomb dumped 100,000 liters of oil into nearby bodies of water, causing one of the largest environmental disasters in the province — and you can’t get your shit together because you are in the middle of moving house? Please.

And let’s not forget the cowardly coup de grâce of throwing the lowest possible person in this appalling event under the bus. Who’s at fault here? Yes, ladies and gentlemen! It’s the as-yet-unnamed engineer, the sole operator of the full 73-car train, which was parked at the top of a hill when its brakes failed.

Yep. That’s right. It wasn’t the fault of the practice of having a single engineer operating a train of that size — a practice that Burkhardt says was company policy and was preferred for “safety.” Nor was it the fault of an economy built on petroleum (though some have even used this tragedy as a despicable opportunity to promote the Keystone XL Pipeline). And it certainly wasn’t the fault of Edward A. Burkhardt, President of Rail World, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois, and Chairman of the Board of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Company, who stood in front of a crowd of grieving and displaced Québécois and, when asked about how much he’s worth, joked, “A whole lot less than I was on Saturday.”

Nope. It’s the fault of the worker, who can’t be fired (yet) because of the protection of his cursed union.

“He said he applied 11 hand brakes,” Burkhardt said about the engineer, who’s been suspended without pay and is being held by police in the event that criminal charges are brought against him. “Initially we believed him, but now we don’t.”

“I think he did something wrong,” Burkhardt emphatically told reporters as the conference ended.

Because sniffing out wrongdoing is clearly Edward A. Burkhardt’s spec-ee-ality, with whipped cream and a cherry on top! Yep. He knows that scent like he knows the smell of his own shit.

* * * *

Lauren Lightningstorm is a cook and temp worker who lives in Iowa City, IA. She enjoys painting her nails and smashing capitalism.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robert in Port Townsend July 18, 2013 at 8:59 am

Gr4eat commentary. Reminds one of Gordon Gekko’s signature motto … “Greed is Good.”
Ed’s justification for running one-person train crews is, “that it improves productivity; eliminates distraction.” However, he left out the REAL reason for the one-person Engineer/Conductor is the COST SAVINGS BENEFIT to the Corporation – $70k in wages and benefits.


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