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Netflix disaster movie ‘White Noise’: A case of when life imitates art for family evacuated in Ohio

While ‘White Noise’ is meant to be a dark comedy, for the residents of East Palestine living through an eerily similar event, it is no laughing matter.

Ohio family that appeared in ‘White Noise’ is living the real thing

There are numerous disaster movies and for most of us can be a way to sit back and pass the time being entertained. Not so for at least one resident, and one can assume for many more, of East Palestine. At least when it comes to ‘White Noise’ which “hit too close to home,” according to Ben Ratner, who played an evacuee in the movie and became one himself a little over a week ago.

The movie, based on a 1985 book by the same name, is about a family that has to evacuate their town after a freight train carrying deadly toxins collides with a tanker truck and explodes. On 3 February, minus the tanker truck, an eerily similar event took place in the northeast Ohio town, and the Ratner family who had been extras in the Netflix film found themselves living out a real-life version of the movie.

Life imitates art for evacuated family in Ohio

‘White Noise’ was filmed on location in 2021 around Ohio, so when the opportunity came knocking to have a fun distraction from the day-to-day the Ratner family signed up to be extras. Little did they know that roughly a year and a half later their lives would be imitating the movie they appeared in as evacuees.

Their house is located under a mile away from where the Norfolk Southern train carrying multiple toxic chemicals derailed and caught fire. The day after the derailment they and everyone within a two-mile radius of the train wreck, were ordered to evacuate. The area was later expanded further, forcing the family to flee for a second time as his wife and children first went to his in-laws house about two miles from the accident site.

“Talk about art imitating life,” Ratner told People Magazine. “This is such a scary situation. And you can just about drive yourself crazy thinking about how uncanny the similarities are between what’s happening now and in that movie.”

The situation is no laughing matter

Fearing that the derailed train cars carrying the hazardous chemical vinyl chloride, which is highly flammable, could become bombs sending shrapnel over a mile from the wreck, authorities vented the containers into a trench and ignited it. That sent a massive black plume of toxic smoke into the air. The EPA has since sent a letter to Norfolk Southern informing them that three more hazardous chemicals were found onboard the derailed cars.

Ratner told CNN that a few days after the catastrophic accident he tried to sit down to watch the movie he and his family had been extras in, but that “all of a sudden, it hit too close to home.”

“The first half of the movie is all almost exactly what’s going on here,” he said. The film is a dark comedy starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle but even their talent can’t bring humor to the real-life experience of such disasters. “Those are great actors, but it was hard to see it as a put-on,” Ratner said.

Late Wednesday last week, the evacuation order was lifted. However, even though residents can return home, many fear the lingering aftermath of the catastrophe. The EPA has said that air and water samples have shown levels below safety screening levels for contaminants of concern. Still, residents have reported finding dead animals, like chickens, dogs and foxes, in the area as well as dead fish and frogs in local streams. Additionally, they say that there is still the smell of chemicals around the town and in their homes.


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