ISLE OF WIGHT - Teresa McCaskey knows she's among the lucky ones.
When she left International Paper for the last time on April 30, she collected one week of unemployment insurance before starting her new job at Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News shipyard. McCaskey, a quality control inspector at the Franklin paper mill for 23 years, is one of approximately 140 displaced paper mill workers now on the shipyard's payroll.
McCaskey began sending out resumes in January and said she is grateful to have a job, even though it has required some logistical and fiscal adjustments for her family.
She's earning about half of what she made at International Paper, so the family has had to curtail spending on extras. And while the drive to work used to take 10 minutes, she now hits the road about 4:30 a.m. to find a parking place within a few blocks of her office.
"Once I park, I set the alarm on the phone and try to sleep for an hour or so before I go in at 7:30," she said. "It used to be I didn't burn a tank of gas in two weeks. Now I'm burning two tanks a week.
"It's hard when you are going into the unknown zone. And I had been doing production for so long that I was scared I was going to fail, that I wasn't going to be able provide for my family."
The best part of the change has been having a regular schedule, rather than the shift work she had for the past two decades, McCaskey said. Now she is home in time to help her youngest son, Korbin, a 12-year-old Windsor Middle School sixth-grader, with class projects. And she can sit down to dinner with her family.
"It makes me angry at IP when I realize how much I missed by working those shifts," said McCaskey.
She lives just a short distance from International Paper's towering smokestacks, but she rarely drives past them anymore.
While she was angry and frustrated by the company's decision to close, McCaskey said the last few weeks that she and her close-knit team worked together gave them a much-needed sense of closure.
"I miss our machine … but shutting it down together made it final for us," she said. "Right up till the end, we took pride in what we did. I inspected every reel of paper that rolled off that machine."