Along the main road into town, homemade signs with messages to BP officials--and some even addressed to President Barack Obama--typically begged leaders to save beaches and livelihoods. Rows of rentals along the coast were vacant on what is typically the start of the tourist season. The exceptions were the units filling up with military personnel stationed here to assist in the cleanup effort.
All beach entrances were closed to residents at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend. A small sand berm was put in place, with larger protective oil booms fixed and anchored on top. Anything stretching beyond the berms to the water was considered the “hot zone” by workers and U.S. Coast Guard officials, who kept back curious pedestrians eager to see the oil for themselves.
One family from New Orleans had made the drive in after the city held protests over the weekend. They were quickly moved back away from the tar ball covered shoreline. Another group of women drove in from Pensacola, Fla., because they "had to see for themselves,” they said. They, too, crossed over the berm and filled a Styrofoam cup with tar balls and oil covered debris--souvenirs.
In the late afternoon on Sunday, an official letter from the mayor's office partially lifted the beach ban; “Beach Closed” signs were covered; residents and visitors were allowed to walk along a portion of the shore. Throughout the day small groups determined to enjoy their stretch of sun and sand in the Gulf set up camp and celebrated the Memorial Day weekend as military members and spill workers worked nearby.
Local Grand Isle residents display not-so-subtle messages to BP officials and anyone traveling the main road through their town.
An official BP clean-up worker searches the shoreline for signs of more tar balls at Grand Isle, La.
No place to go. A family ponders the options on Memorial Day in Grand Isle, La.
A portion of the beach is opened to the public a safe distance from the “hot zone.” Residents try to enjoy their day despite the backdrop of hundreds of clean up workers continuing the clean up effort.
Most of the day on Sunday before Memorial Day, families stopped at the beach entrances to see for themselves why they could not get access to the water.
BYOP. A young girl makes the most of what little beach was accessible at Grand Isle.
Soldiers work fast and hard to lay out miles of protective oil boom along the Grand Isle shoreline. They were working to break the previous night's record set by another crew in a running competition devised to motivate the troops.
Once the Boom are laid out, a second team of soldiers fill them with water.
A soldier hauls gas to refuel vehicles being used in the clean up effort.
Mobile pumps supply water from the Gulf of Mexico to fill miles of boom that line the Grand Isle beach.
Oil stains the boots of a soldier laying protective boom along the beach.
BP workers wear protective suits and shoes.
A reporter works out of her truck finishing up a story from the Memorial Day Weekend.
A BP spill worker takes a knee in the shade to gather himself before returning back to the effort. It was 92 degrees.
Once tar bar balls are discovered along the shoreline, rakes are called in, and another wave of workers arrive.
A second wave of workers arrive by bus when more tar balls are confirmed on the beach.
Workers employed by BP to clean the Grand Isle beaches arrive for another round of cleaning.
A woman who traveled from Florida makes her way down to the water to take a picture for her to remember the beach here.