Brought Together By Loss, 2 Mothers Spearhead Memorial For Those Who Lost Their Lives In The Gulf Of Mexico
July 16, 2017
The shock of the explosion has long passed, but tears still gather at the corners of Missy Jones' eyes.
There's something to be said about a traditional funeral, where family and friends can say goodbye. But that's not possible when a loved one is lost in an oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
Jones' son, Gordon, was one of 11 men who died April 20, 2010, when the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded during the final stages of drilling an exploratory oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Among the first responders sent for search and rescue was Cindie Roussel's son, Blake Anthony Terry, who would continue the cleanup the following year then lose his life on Aug. 13, 2011, while deepwater diving in the Gulf.
"He went down but never came back up," Roussel says. "It was almost exactly a year from the time that he responded to the Deepwater Horizon accident that it happened."
Once strangers, Jones and Roussel are now united by a need for closure.
The two have spearheaded a project they hope will provide comfort to anyone who has lost a loved one in the Gulf of Mexico.
In September, artist Robert Epstein will install Our Lady of the Gulf at Port Fourchon in Lafourche Parish.
To call the monument a labor of love would be an understatement for Roussel, who began the Blake Terry Memorial Foundation shortly after her son's death in 2011. Her goal was to help family and friends know what to do in the event of losing a loved one in a diving accident, but it morphed into something more.
"The loss of a child is tremendous, but not to have his body is a double atrocity," Jones says. "You just don't get that closure. I think it would be different if there is a place you can go. The monument will be that place."
Roussel learned that the only monument commemorating maritime deaths in the Gulf is the Seaman's Memorial on the shore in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. However, in Tampa Bay, Florida, Epstein's "Hand of Fate" monument, a large hand steadying a ship just as it's about to be topped by a wave, memorializes Florida fishermen lost at sea.
Roussel knew Epstein would be perfect for crafting the Port Fourchon monument, which is being funded by the Blake Terry Memorial Foundation.
Our Lady of the Gulf resembles a mermaid, yet Roussel and Jones are adamant that she is not.
"To me, the most important thing about her is her spirit," says Epstein from his studio in Aurora, Colorado. "She does have mermaid features, and, yes, she has a tail. But recently, my work has dealt with women and water. When I turned to the figurative on this monument, she fit with both — women and water."
The monument is being crafted of cold bronze, meaning Epstein is brushing liquid bronze over the full-scale Styrofoam figure. The finished statue will react to weather and other elements "as would a molded bronze figure poured in a foundry," he says.
Standing atop a pedestal, the monument will be 16 feet tall, "ascending from the water bathed in air bubbles and sunlight. In the folds of her watery cloak, she carries all those who have been lost at sea. She is surrounded by all of those who served protecting our inlands; furnishing us with the riches of our earth; provided our love of seafood and/or just loved witnessing the beauty of a sunset touching the salty glass water," according to the Blake Terry Memorial Foundation's website.
"Cindie and Missy teared up when they first saw it in the studio," Epstein says. "I knew then that she was right."
Roussel and Jones made their trip to Epstein's studio shortly after the two met. They discovered they were more alike than different, with their lost sons as their main bond.
Jones talked about how her 28-year-old son was the oil rig's mud engineer. The Baton Rougean and his wife, Michelle, were parents to a 2-year-old son, Stafford, and Michelle was eight months pregnant with son Max at the time of Gordon's death.
Max will never know his dad. Neither will Blake Terry's son, Blake Terry Jr., who was born to Blake's girlfriend, Rachel Walker, after Blake's death.
Roussel talked about how the two were inseparable, how her 27-year-old son moved to Baton Rouge because that's where Rachel's life was and how everyone knew her son as someone who was always ready to help others.
He didn't hesitate, his mom said, when called to respond to the Deepwater Horizon aftermath, diligently working with his fellow responders in the cleanup process. But it was his favorite recreational activity — diving — that would take his life.
Now the two mothers are anticipating the installation of Our Lady of the Gulf, who will stand facing the Gulf next to Port Fourchon’s Emergency Command Center. The Greater Lafourche Port Commission donated the land.
The entire project cost some $110,000, most of which was raised through fishing rodeos hosted by the Blake Terry Memorial Foundation and a GoFundMe campaign. Inscribed bricks around the base will be sold, allowing families to memorialize their loved ones lost at sea. Other donors also can buy bricks as commemorations.
Donations also are being accepted, and Roussel is applying for nonprofit grants she hopes will help cover some of the costs.
Roussel and Jones know the installation will be emotional; tears well in their eyes at the thought.
Tears that never seem to go away.
Source: The Advocate