Monday, November 24, 2014 - 2:16pm

Former ASARCO workers gather to watch the stacks fall

Former ASARCO workers gather to watch the stacks fall

POSTED: Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 10:48am

UPDATED: Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 8:42am

The ASARCO refinery closed in 1999 but for decades, it provided high-paying jobs for many Borderland residents.     

Some workers remember ASARCO as an economic opportunity that helped them feed their families, and others are haunted by the health problems they developed by working there.

Early Saturday morning, members of the community and former ASARCO workers gathered in the parking lot of the old Jackson's Restaurant on North Mesa to watch a historic landmark come toppling down.

"It made me emotional. Yes it did. Sorry to say it, I'm a man but it's, it's not good," said former ASARCO worker of 10 years, Patrick Garza.      

"It's emotional because I saw my dad. I saw my dad there right now. He passed away about 4 years ago and he's the one that brought me in there. So, it's emotional. Yeah," said a third generation ASARCO worker, Daniel Arellano.

Many of the former smelter workers were employed by ASARCO for decades, but ex-workers say they soon paid dearly for the luxury of receiving great pay and benefits for their families.

A discovery in 1971 revealed many ASARCO workers had been exposed to dangerous chemicals on site. In the years to come, many would die from the exposure. Some of the survivors came to pay tribute today but remain haunted by their own medical problems.

"We're very fortunate to still be kicking, to still be alive. Our quality of life has diminished. There's just too many illnesses that the guys are experiencing that makes their lives miserable," said another former ASARCO employee, Carlos Rodriguez.

As the dust from the demolition settled, the ASARCO veterans released two pigeons into the sky -- one black to represent the painful past, and one white to symbolize a new beginning for the future generations of El Paso.

"El Paso is my home and I'll never leave it, but a part of it left on its own today," said 18 year-old Vincent Arrieta who came to watch the demolition with his family.

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