Everyone will recall April 20, 2010 as the day the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and 11 men perished.


But several other dates might resonate just as profoundly with Okaloosa County residents.


There was April 23, for example, when the rig sank into the Gulf and created the potential for a massive spill — as much as 300,000 gallons per day according to some estimates at the time — and April 27, the day reports began mentioning possible impacts to the entire Gulf Coast.


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It might have been June 4, when oil from the spill first washed ashore in Florida, or the next day, June 5, when tarballs were discovered on Okaloosa and Walton county beaches.


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For some, the most memorable day of that long, bleak summer might have been June 15, the day the Okaloosa County Commission stood up to BP and the United States Coast Guard in defense of protecting Destin’s East Pass from oil.


"We made the decision legislatively to break the laws if necessary. We will do whatever it takes to protect our county’s waterways, and we’re prepared to go to jail to do it," Commission Chairman Wayne Harris famously said that day.


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On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the spill, Harris vividly recalls his outburst, which occurred during an emergency meeting held in conjunction with the Destin City Council.


The comment, to use a phrase probably not even coined at the time, went viral.


"That was my 15 minutes of fame," he said. "I got calls from all over the country, all over the world."


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The county was scrambling at the time to do whatever could be done to prevent oil from entering Choctawhatchee Bay through the Destin Pass, which serves as a connector between Destin Harbor, home of the county’s fishing fleet, and the Gulf of Mexico.


Commissioners had become frustrated with waiting on the Coast Guard to approve plans to implement a couple of emergency measures.


"It was an economic decision. We were thinking of the millions of dollars we could lose by the time they closed it off," Harris said.


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The commission voted unanimously to ignore the advice of a Coast Guard commander in attendance and fund the emergency measures, which, as it turned out, never had to be implemented.


Dino Villani was Okaloosa’s Public Safety Director at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A seasoned veteran when it came to hurricane preparation, Villani acknowledged that the spill caught everyone off guard.


"That was a very challenging time to be sure. Particularly difficult was the fact we had to come up with a plan for something, quite frankly, we never thought we would have to plan for."


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Villani described coordinating with the Coast Guard and BP to get things done as quite different from tropical storm preparation.


"The whole system was backwards to what we were used to. The chain of command wasn’t really clear," he said. "There was a steep learning curve for how to deal with the spill and how to deal with the system. Each was equally challenging."


The most frustrating aspect of the oil spill for then Okaloosa County Administrator Jim Curry was waiting and wondering when the pipe from which oil gushed for weeks on end would finally be capped.


"We had a catastrophic event on our hands and no one knew when they would get that stopped," he said. "Here we just kept looking for a solution and at what is going to be our best defense, our best barrier, to keep this from coming ashore."


Though the long-term negative impacts of the oil spill are still being weighed, in the short term 10 years ago, the physical damage incurred by Okaloosa and counties east of it was relatively minimal.


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Damage was inflicted upon the Emerald Coast by a steep drop in tourism. The oil spill didn’t deal the big blow, it was the national news media, according to economic expert David Goetsch.


"The economy here locally, from the tourism perspective, was really affected by the national media. There was no discernment between what areas were hit hard and what areas weren’t," Goetsch said.


Sam Seevers, Destin’s mayor in 2010, recalled being interviewed by CNN at the time, and while the beaches in her city were clear of any oil spill residue, a box in the corner of the screen at the time the interview aired held an image of an oil slicked pelican likely discovered off the badly battered coast of Louisiana.


"The media didn’t portray the area as it should have been portrayed," Seevers said.


It took two years for Northwest Florida to recover from an economic downturn spurred by perception alone, Goetsch said. But an aggressive marketing strategy, spearheaded by the now much maligned Visit Florida, won back the tourists.


"In the third year it all came roaring back," he said. "The TDCs and the governor and a lot of others got very aggressive about saying ’you’ve been misled, look at these beaches.’ And the people that came that third year went back and said ’You should have come.’ "


Seevers said one group that got a bad rap following the 2010 oil spill was BP itself.


"The first time we saw some product washing ashore on our beaches we had workers hired by BP out there cleaning up," she said. "If you look at BP and what they did, I think they did everything they could do in their realm to mitigate ... BP was here to help us. That’s one thing a lot of people don’t understand. The people with BP were coming to our cities, meeting with us and saying ’hey, what can we do?’ Negativity sells, I get that, but there’s a story to be told about the good."


Kelly Windes, a county commissioner now, but a boat captain in 2010, is another who benefited from the largesse of BP in the wake of the oil spill.


Several weeks into the crisis he and his six-boat crew were called into action in Louisiana working to ferry VIP’s or medics from one place to another and acting as oil spotters for big skimmer boats.


For 83 days straight, Windes said, he and his team worked, and saw oil on the water he described as four inches deep and two football fields wide.


BP covered all the costs, including meals, and paid Windes and his workers handsomely for their time, he said.


He picked up a side job rescuing stricken birds.


Birds that Windes referred to as Gooney Birds, often found themselves trapped in the big fields of floating oil. He scooped the birds out of the oil and dropped them into a live well filled with Dawn detergent to spend the night.


"The next morning they’d be squeaky clean," he said.


"Every time I got in there (in the oil) I would get five or six birds. We must have saved 50 or 60 of those birds," he said. "I took that bird duty in my own hands. We had boxes and boxes of Dawn.


"Something like that will give you some satisfaction."


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