CASTINE, Maine — Hundreds of people from Maine Maritime Academy and the larger community gathered for a Vigil of Hope for the missing crew members of the El Faro on Tuesday on the school’s Castine campus.
The fate of the four Maine Maritime graduates believed to have been on board the cargo ship when it went missing last week off the coast of the Bahamas remains unknown.
The fact that the sea can be deadly, however, has not deterred students from pursuing careers on the water.
“We know about the risks getting into it,” sophomore John Bruns of Boca Raton, Florida, said just before the candlelight vigil began. “There’s a handful of us who have worked on the water before.”
Classmate Elliot Roberts of Jamestown, Rhode Island, agreed.
“I think it’s just that both of us have done stuff on the water for our whole lives,” Roberts said. “It’s something in the back of your head. Unfortunately, it takes something so serious such as what just happened to actually make you think about how real [the danger] is.
“When you’re out at sea, you kind of lose sight of how close you are to death at any moment on a ship. It’s just a sobering reminder to never let your guard down and take everything that we learned at the school seriously because even the little things matter,” he said.
The two students were among an estimated 300 people who attended the vigil. Others on hand included faculty, alumni and people from the community.
“We are here in the hope of the safe return of the crew of El Faro,” Maine Maritime President William Brennan said. “Our thoughts and our prayers are with their families and their loved ones. But we are also here to express hope for ourselves by knowing that the human spirit has the will to survive.”
Brennan noted that the words of the Navy Hymn were written for a student who was about to set sail for America.
“Oh hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea,” he said. “It is an an acknowledgment that the sea can be fraught with peril. … Yet it also is a message of hope. We are mariners. Those of us know that while the sea is to be respected, the sea is not to be feared. That is why we train. That is why we prepare. That is why we exercise prudence,” he said, adding, “That is why we help each other, now and forever.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with the crew of the El Faro, the Lighthouse, and we, the Maine Maritime Academy community, are a family that stretches around the globe, with ships at sea worldwide,” he said. “This is our beacon and our hope for the safe return of all mariners.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard continued to search for crew members of the El Faro.
The ship was captained by Michael Davidson of Windham, a 1988 graduate of Maine Maritime. Missing crew members include Danielle Randolph, 34, of Rockland, a 2005 graduate; Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton, a 2012 graduate; and Dylan Meklin, 23, a 2010 graduate of Rockland High School, who graduated from Maine Maritime in May, the Bangor Daily News has confirmed.
The last communication between the 790-foot steamship and the mainland was made at 7:20 a.m. Thursday while en route from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cargo carrier lost propulsion and was listing after encountering Hurricane Joaquin north of San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, the captain said in his request for help.
The Federated Church of Thomaston also will hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening. The church, located at 8 Hyler St. in Thomaston, will be open from 5 to 7 p.m., and the vigil will begin at 5:30 p.m.
“Join us as we gather to light candles and pray for all those missing from the El Faro, which disappeared during Hurricane Joaquin. Help us to support their friends and families, especially those right here in Knox County,” the church stated in a news release.
BDN writers Beth Brogan and Stephen Betts contributed to this report.