"Where do we go from here?” is the question steelworkers are asking today. The time of the mighty steel mill is over. Certainly, we have seen the closing of manufacturing plants before. Over the years, many plants have closed and moved their business elsewhere. Not so long ago, General Motors close its doors. One day, on Holabird Avenue, stood the shell of a large auto plant. The next day nothing left but a parking lot. Yet, for many, “The Point” was different. Nothing could ever stop the massive steel manufacturer. While the loss of jobs will be devastating to the area, the community has also lost a part of its identity. Soon, no one will remember the efforts and the contributions this area made in the building, and defending of, this great nation, as well as exemplifying the American dream.
Throughout the years, Sparrows Point was the example of the American Middle Class. One could find a job that paid well, and with the signing of a union card, a worker was granted a voice on the factory floor. With this collective voice, the jobs became secure and life was promising for the American workers. Although the jobs were dangerous, the hopes of creating a better life for their children and the dream of retirement motivated the workers. The long hours and difficult work created friendships in the mills that were as strong as the steel that the worker made. Nothing could break these bonds of friendships. The workers became family, and the crest of that family was a simple I-beam. The mills became their homes. On hot summer nights one could lay in bed and be lulled to sleep with the sounds of train whistles and the dull rhythmic rumblings from the mill off in the distance. With such a large workforce, everyone throughout the town had a feeling of belonging. Everyone worked or knew someone that made his or her living making steel. The American dream became a reality at Sparrows Point. The workers bought homes, raised families, worshiped, lived, died, and never needed to leave the town for anything. The workers were like soldiers.
Not to take away from the fighting men and women that keep us safe from danger, but for over a hundred years the men and women of Sparrows Point risked their lives to forge the steel that made our country great. Their battlefield were the hot dangerous mills that they proudly marched into each day. The heat, danger, and long hours were faced every day for the sole purpose of making America strong. All of the workers knew the dangers of the job, and still showed up every day. Facing these unsafe conditions was part of the job, part of the sacrifice that they made to build America. Throughout the years, they saw fellow workers killed on the battlefield. Whether it was by accident or by the slow painful deaths of cancer or asbestosis, they still marched into battle. They worked, they showed up, and they gave their lives out of the understanding that they were creating a better country. They made steel that was strong and tough, and like the American spirit unbreakable.
Today the mills are closed. The battlefield is silent. The soldier stands alone. There will be no parade to honor the steelworkers. At the least, an historical marker should be placed on North Point Road to mark the historical contributions of the plant. Although the plans for the property may be unclear, what cannot be denied, and should never be forgotten, is the significance of Sparrows Point. The memory of the Steelworkers, who lost their lives forging the steel used to create and defend this great nation, must be honored. When the plant is dismantled, and the land redeveloped, those mighty structures will be reduced to nothing more than stories that are told to the children and grandchildren of the former steelworkers. However, when they are gone what will be left to tell their story?