The "nightmare well" is dead. But the Gulf coast's bad dream is far from over.
Federal officials declared Sunday that the well where the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded had finally been killed. Workers drilled a relief well into the damaged one and drove a cement stake deep into its oily, black heart.
Its official end came 11 years after Texaco first sank an exploratory well near that same spot 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, then moved on after finding it unprofitable. When BP PLC purchased the rights to explore for oil there in 2008, it held an in-house well-naming contest. The winning team chose the name Macondo, after the mythical town from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude."
Carved out of a "paradise of dampness and silence," the Macondo of the story is a cursed place, a metaphor for the fate awaiting those too arrogant to heed warning signs.
BP's name choice came to seem prescient last April 20.
That day, an explosion on the rig — which had drilled the well and was in the process of capping it — killed 11 men instantly and started a slow-motion disaster that has jeopardized the livelihoods of legions of fishermen, hotel and restaurant workers, drilling employees and others.
In the three months before a temporary cap stemmed the flow from the blown-out well, as much as 172 million gallons of oil and millions of cubic feet of natural gas spewed into Gulf waters.
For those most directly affected by the spill — the ones who still await BP checks for lost wages and revenues, who live on beaches where oil mats are just now coming ashore — the feeling of helplessness remains raw, like a freshly stitched wound.
"If you had to live with all the uncertainty, for all those months," says Mike Helmer, a fishing guide out of Lafitte, La. "I can promise you it's not easy. And it's not over."
At the well's death, Associated Press reporters who covered the disaster checked in with scientists awaiting test results, with business and legal analysts seeking answers and resolutions, and with Gulf residents looking to an uncertain future and struggling against the "quicksand of forgetfulness" that consumed the fictional Macondo. Here are their reports.