The story of Flint, Michigan is tragic, but with it, brings a true American hero. That sounds like a cliché, but there is truly no other word to adequately describe Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.
In 2011, Flint switched their water source from the purified, treated waters of Lake Huron to the Flint River. The Emergency Manager, appointed by the Governor of Michigan, ignored federal safety laws in an attempt to save money and ended up poisoning the impoverished residents of Flint. At the time, Dr. Hanna-Attisha was the director of the pediatric residency program at Hurley Medical Center, a public teaching hospital affiliated with Michigan State University. After a pivotal conversation with a childhood friend about the lead levels in Flint’s drinking water, who just happened to be a water quality expert, Dr. Hanna-Attisha worked tirelessly to bring the evidence to the public eye.
That’s a gross oversimplification of the Flint water tragedy, but fortunately, Dr. Hanna-Attisha wrote a book about her experience titled, What the Eyes Don’t See.
The book is beautifully written and absolutely riveting. In addition to the scientific facts and reporting around the Flint water crisis, it’s mixed with her experiences as a mother, doctor, scientist and activist. I found myself laughing at the relatable truth of trying to have a serious conversation while kids are screaming and playing instruments at top volume in the background and gasping at the blatant, callous disregard for the health of Flint’s children. It’s a complex story not just about drinking water, but lack of representation and the corruption of democracy. My mouth was gaping with incredulity for most of the book.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is everything that is still good about America. A smart, accomplished immigrant from Iraq, who has dedicated her life to one of the poorest, most neglected cities in our country. She quite literally fought evil with science. Flint still doesn’t have clean water, so the battle rages on. If you would like to help, consider donating to Flintkids.org.