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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.