Tired Hearts

So . . . the Blackthorn 35th Memorial Service is behind us. We are still processing all that our hearts are feeling, but we wanted to share a little bit about the events now. I may share more from my heart on my personal blog, Owning My Nothingness, once I’ve worked through everything.

One of the hardest things about the past twenty-four hours has been the pain we saw and felt from the survivors, and especially from the crew’s beloved captain. In many, many ways, the survivors, out of everyone who was affected by the events of January 28, 1980, have had the hardest thirty-five years. Some wounds just don’t ever heal.

One of the most surprising things about the past twenty-four hours has been the depth of loyalty and love and “family-ness” we felt from the survivors for each other and for those of us who lost someone that night. We had never met any of these men or their wives before, but the moment we walked into the dinner last night, we felt like we’d walked right into a huge group hug. Being surrounded by so many people outside of our family who not only understood our grief and pain, but also shared it and wanted to help us carry it, was a sort of balm for areas of our souls that we hadn’t realized were still in need of healing.

Every family had a story. We wish we had been able to sit and listen to every one of them in detail. The son who turned twenty-two the day before the collision and was told in a phone conversation with his family that they would have a party for him when he got home — this is a family who had already lost one son; the seventeen-year-old who died — so young!; the brother who was engaged and planning to marry that summer; the survivor who still has medical issues because of the oil he took into his lungs while waiting to be rescued from the wreckage; the eighteen-year-old who, desperate to save some of the trapped men, refused to stop diving again and again until finally, he never resurfaced. So many stories. Endless numbers of lives changed in an instant.

WARNING: Many pictures ahead.

Pictures from the dinner last night:

Crabby Bill's right on the beach in St. Petersburg

Crabby Bill’s right on the water in St. Petersburg

Dinner Night Before #2

Survivors and family members of those who perished sharing dinner.

Dinner Night Before #3

Survivors and family members of those who perished sharing dinner.

Dinner Night Before #5

The two of us with two of the survivors who knew Gary very well. One shared very openly that he is now a Believer because of my brother’s example and friendship.

Dinner Night Before #6

The sister of one of the survivors who fell in love with our kids and wanted a picture with us. She works with children as they exit the U.S. foster system with no life skills, no home, no family, and a $75 gift from the government to start their lives. Heartbreaking!! This is tragically similar to children who leave their orphanages in developing countries.

This morning, we got up very early so we could make the hour-plus drive back to St. Petersburg for the ceremony. When a USCG helicopter flew low over the bay, tilted, opened the side door, and dropped a wreath into the water, this set the stage for the storm of emotions to follow over the next few hours.

Memorial Service #3

Our kids looking at Gary’s name on the monument before the service began.

Memorial Service #2

Memorial Service #6Memorial Service #7

Gary's listing

Gary’s listing

Memorial Service #5

Where it happened. Twenty-three men's lives ended, and twenty-five others' lives changed drastically and permanently.

Where it happened. Twenty-three men’s lives ended, and twenty-five others’ lives changed drastically and permanently.

Memorial Service #8

Our three littlest, looking out over the bay where an uncle they’ll never meet was ushered Home by a legion of angels.

The service started with a fly-over by a Coast Guard plane and two CG helicopters

Early on, the men who perished were honored with a fly-over by a Coast Guard plane and two CG helicopters

Our National Anthem

Our National Anthem

Memorial Service #11

Amazing Grace — bagpipes – more tears

Memorial Service #12

The Colorguard

Memorial Service #13

Very moving twenty-one gun salute. One of the survivors gave the kids eight of the shell casings after the ceremony.

Organizations in the community still place many wreaths -- one at a time -- in memory of the men who died

Organizations in the community still place many wreaths — one at a time — in memory of the men who died

Memorial Service #15

Probably the most moving part of the ceremony for me was the roses. Twenty-three roses – one for each of the twenty-three men who died – were brought to base of the monument one at a time.

Memorial Service #16

The Cutterman chosen to carry Gary’s rose when his name was read.

Memorial Service #17

Carrying Gary’s rose to the monument

Memorial Service #18

Placing Gary’s rose at the base before saluting and returning to his place in line

Memorial Service #19

All twenty-three roses

Memorial Service #20

The actual bell from the Blackthorn, recovered after the wreckage was salvaged — each time a name was read for the roses, the bell was rung

Memorial Service #21

Gary’s rose – after the ceremony

Memorial Service #23

Some of the survivors, their families, and family members of those who died

After the ceremony, a few went to lunch, and we had the opportunity to ask questions, exchange email and Facebook info, and have some confusing details of the accident clarified.

Memorial Service #25

We ended the day with our nephew who lives in FL now. He drove over two hours to have a one-hour coffee chat with us. It was so great to see him and catch up on his life a bit.

Our nephew, Jonathan, with our babies

Our nephew, Jonathan, with our babies

This sunset greeted us as we returned to our hotel where we got the kids to bed early and started packing for trip home in the morning.

Last Day - Sunset

The kids have been so good this whole trip. It was a tough schedule for them, and they really did smile through almost every minute of it. But they are ready to head home now. Roslyn is missing Murray, and Jaden tells us that he misses his “people.”😊 This has been an opportunity and a blessing that we will never forget.

Goodnight, and thank you so much to all of you who sent notes throughout the day telling us that you were praying for us. I’ll write more about the emotional side of this, and my thoughts, once I can find the words and the time to write them out.

One thought on “Tired Hearts

  1. Pingback: I Want You To Know | Owning My Nothingness

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