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'This preventable accident has put a scarlet letter on our town': East Palestine resident testifies before US Senate committee on train derailment

'My 7-year-old has asked me if he is going to die from living in his own home. What do I tell him?'

WASHINGTON — “I’m here to put a face on this disaster. This isn’t just a political issue, it is a people issue."

Those were the opening statements from Misti Allison, a resident of East Palestine who testified before a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday regarding the toxic Ohio train derailment.

"Everyone who lives in East Palestine is aware of the trains that pass by, but we’ve never really thought about them," she continued. "Now, we can’t think about anything else. We will never forget the night the train derailed. I could see a huge fireball from my driveway. It didn’t seem real. Little did we know this was only the beginning."

She said that her family chose to evacuate, while others did not.

"None of us knew exactly what dangers were on that train. We now know that train carried multiple toxic petrochemicals. When authorities conducted a controlled burn, it was like a bomb went off -- a bomb containing vinyl chloride, which releases dangerous chemicals. When burned, these chemicals never go away. Chemicals such as dioxins, which are not safe at any level, and cause damage that may not show up for years. Two days later, our government told us it was safe to come home, but is it safe?"

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Allison then told the committee that people and animals in her community are sick.

"The EPA tells us the data is fine, while independent researchers say that there are high levels of carcinogens all around us. Who do we trust? And then, there’s our mental health. The anxiety is real. My 7-year-old has asked me if he is going to die from living in his own home. What do I tell him? This preventable accident has put a scarlet letter on our town. People don’t want to come here."

She said home values are plummeting and businesses in the community are struggling.

"Even if we wanted to leave, we couldn’t. Who would buy our homes?"

Allison ended her comments by quoting her mother, who she said passed away less than two weeks ago after a three-year battle with cancer.

"My mother taught me to fight for what’s right, and I will always fight to protect the health and safety of my children, of your children and of every child in America. Remember, this is about people. This is about a community that no one had ever heard of before becoming ground zero in a small town being destroyed overnight. We must have strong businesses, but I urge all of you to support commonsense safety regulations so this doesn’t happen again. Together, we can make sure that East Palestine and the surrounding areas not only recover -- but thrive -- and that no other community experiences this tragedy. My mom always told me, ‘Either you find a way or you find an excuse.’ So it’s time to learn from this and move forward together. Let’s find a way, not another excuse.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also appeared during the hearing remotely from the East Palestine High School library.

“The people of East Palestine have told me that they want their community back," he said. "They want things to go back to the way they were before the train wreck. Members of the committee, Norfolk Southern has an obligation to restore this community. It was their train, their tracks, their accident. They’re responsible for this tragedy.”

Watch Gov. DeWine's full statement in the video below:

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