El Faro Memorial Dedicated in Piney Point (5/5)


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Seafarers and guests gathered at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education to solemnly dedicate parts of the school’s waterfront park in memory of those who perished aboard the El Faro.


The heartfelt ceremony took place April 26 in Piney Point, Maryland, following the fourth annual Seafarers Waterfront Classic. A plaque and a ship’s bell were dedicated on the park’s lighthouse (the vessel’s name means “the lighthouse”). The park also features memorial bricks for each of the 33 individuals (including 17 SIU members) who were on the El Faro when it sank near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin last Oct. 1.


SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel opened the ceremony. He said that even though the maritime industry doesn’t leave anything to chance, “sometimes it’s in the hands of God, no matter what we do.”


He cited both the Paul Hall Center and the American Maritime Officers school in Dania, Florida, as testaments to the thorough training that the El Faro mariners and other crews have completed throughout the years.


Ben Christian, a vice president from vessel operator TOTE Maritime, said the company considers all 33 members of the El Faro’s final crew as family, but added he knows that no one other than actual family members can fully understand the pain of the lost lives.


“But their memories live on through this memorial and others,” he said. “This is one more way we remember them.”


Fr. Paul Nguyen from nearby St. George Catholic Church led a prayer, and also said he was struck by the camaraderie in the maritime community. (He had led the memorial mass last November at the school.)


“As SIU President Mike Sacco says all the time, we are a family,” Fr. Nguyen noted. “The El Faro crew will always be part of that family.” (President Sacco was out of town April 26, fulfilling a commitment made long ago to deliver the keynote address at another union’s convention.)


Paul Hall Center Trustee Tony Naccarato and SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez also addressed the crowd, offering words of comfort and vowing to help maintain the memories of the crew.


“The way we keep their legacy alive,” said Tellez, “is by training and best practices and safety. Our profession is a noble profession and there are many, many folks that depend on us, especially our military.”


Tellez also thanked the members of the Wounded Warrior Anglers who were in attendance.


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