Saturday, April 4, 2009

Clairton Today

Not all Clairton stories are good news:

Another CHS alum who made good: Demonje Rosser lived for football, and for the kids he coached and mentored according to those who knew him. His elementary school teacher told of his million dollar smile and his easy way with both his peers and adults. He had many challenges that so often face kids from the projects, including an absentee mother much of the time. His Grandma raised him and helped him be something special and to rise above the fate that consumed many of his peers.

It was picture day and he was in the third grade or so. He’d been in a Tom Thumb wedding and his Grandma sent him to school in his tuxedo for the picture. Even at such a young age he was destined to make an impact on the world as he charmed all the teachers. By the time he graduated from Clairton High School in 1999 a new century was about to dawn and Demonje was focused on making an impact on it. He loved sports and was grateful for the role they’d played in his life. He decided to give back to the community and become a coach. He was the biological father to his four children but a second father to the many he coached from Midget League onward to varsity. Coach Rosser was known to show up on the doorsteps of the kids he coached and in their classrooms if he heard they were having problems.

Coach Rosser had made it. He had stayed in his hometown to make an impact on young lives. He was a family man who lived on a quiet street just around the corner from Clairton High School. But for some inexplicable reason his life ended in a flash and a bang. Coach Rosser was shot as he stepped from his truck in front of his two story home on Park Avenue. He died 30 minutes later at Jefferson Regional Medical Center. He leaves behind a wife and four children: a 12-year-old daughter; 6-year-old twins — a boy and a girl — and another son, age 4.

Everybody who was interviewed about Coach Rosser said essentially the same thing, "He was a joy to be around. He loved kids, and he'd go out of his way to help a kid in trouble. The little ones were his joy." He has been described as a friend, father figure and mentor. An inspiration to Clairton's youth.

Stories of Rosser's loyalty and generosity followed the news of his passing. A former Clairton football player who went on to coach the area's midget league team, the Bears linebackers coach always took care of his players. Whether it was buying food for a player who otherwise wouldn't have had dinner or giving fatherly advice to a player who came from a single-family home, Rosser was more friend than coach.

He was described “Mr. Clairton;" a father to a lot of kids who didn't have one and a second father to those who did have one. He always made sure kids who had nothing had something. Clairton has lost a legend. Rest in Peace, Coach Rosser.

More bad news on the doorstep: As if it were not bad enough that Clairton lost one of its native sons, U.S. Steel blamed the bad economy for cancellation of a huge project planned for Clairton Works. Back in October U.S. Steel announced a $ 1 Billion plant upgrade to the Coke Works that made Clairton a hive of activity in the post World War II boom. Governor Ed Rendell reacted to the initial announcement with great hope as did a community that has seen both its economy and population dwindle as steel mills closed up and down the Monongahela. But then came the good news. Workers would be called back and new ones hired as the Coke Works would be converted to the latest and best technology available.

But the euphoria and promise lasted fewer than five months. Plans for the $ 1 billion upgrade came to a grinding halt with the announcement. Along with the indefinite cancellation plans came dashed hopes for 600 new construction jobs, a lot for Clairton but a drop in the bucket compared to the 7,000 other laid off workers from U.S. Steel due to the economic slowdown.

The improvements would have also improved the air quality with reduced emissions at the plant. The upgrade was expected to include construction of two new coke batteries, or sets of ovens, which would have replaced less efficient batteries whose technology was half a century old. The project also included rehabilitation of other batteries that did not necessarily need to be replaced.

The plan was projected to take several years and included reducing the total number of coke ovens by 235 and by 30 percent the number of openings through which emissions might pass. The net result would be cleaner air for Clairton while adding new jobs to the economy.

Coke ovens, which make the product essential for production of steel are filled with metallurgical coal that's baked for hours at extremely high temperatures to remove impurities. Gases emitted during the coal baking process are captured and used as an energy source. The coke is then used as a fuel in blast furnaces.

Clairton has once again taken a hit on the chin. It will stagger but will, as it has over the past hundred years, refuse to fall.

A little blogging music Maestro, “”Wounded” by Good Charlotte.

Dr. Forgot

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