A newly dedicated statue in Rockland, Maine, will help preserve the memories of the El Faro’s final crew.
The creative work – formally dubbed “El Faro Salute!” – was unveiled Sept. 24 before hundreds of attendees. SIU Port Agents Ray Henderson and James Bast represented the union at the gathering; the SIU also co-sponsored the event.
“Both the ceremony itself and the sculpture were really well done,” said Henderson, who regularly sailed aboard the El Faro before coming ashore to work for the union. “It was an honor to be there.”
All 33 individuals aboard the El Faro perished when the vessel sank in a hurricane near the Bahamas on Oct. 1, 2015. The crew included 17 SIU members.
Two of the ship’s officers hailed from Maine, as does Jay Sawyer, who designed the new memorial and graduated from Maine Maritime Academy.
The ceremony, which lasted approximately one hour, featured remarks by Sawyer, Rockland Mayor Ed Glaser, officials from two local museums, and others.
As described in the ceremony’s printed program, “This memorial features two maritime officer uniforms in salute position to signify the honor that the maritime family in this region, and around the world, desire to express to the El Faro crew, and the respect and compassion offered to the families and loved ones of the crew that continue to endure this tragedy.” The names of all 33 individuals from the ship are etched on the front of the statue, which is made of steel.
“I was brought to tears. Pictures don’t do it justice,” said Rochelle Hamm, widow of SIU member Frank Hamm, who was part of the last crew.
“We are handing this over to the local community to be the host,” said Sawyer. “You’ve been selected. This community, because there are two crew members on this ship that lived in this community. Because this is Rockland, the art capital of Maine…. It’s because of the lighthouse that’s out there at the end of the Breakwater, and El Faro is Spanish for lighthouse. It’s for the sunrise; it’s one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.”