Special to CNN
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/07/06/koch.gulf.coast/tzleft.koch.kathleen.courtesy.jpg caption="Coast residents toughed out Katrina, Koch says, and will fight for their rights after oil disaster" width=300 height=169]
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our forefathers penned those simple words into the Declaration of Independence 234 years ago as a promise to every citizen of their fledgling country. Today, millions of Americans living along the Gulf Coast find those unalienable rights threatened.
I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It was a place of pristine, natural beauty. Miles of soft, sandy beaches. The gentle, warm waters of the Mississippi Sound. The bays that cut inland to rivers and streams lined with grassy marshes and bayous that served as nurseries for tiny crabs, shrimp and all manner of fish and marine life.
This weekend, as the nation celebrated, the first black tar balls and foul patties from the oil spill washed up on the beaches of my hometown. Bay St. Louis was hosting its annual Crab Fest on Friday when the quarter- to fist-size globs began rolling in. My brother called to say he'd spotted some in front of the site of our former home on South Beach Boulevard. It was sickening.
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