Families bid farewell to 11 men killed in Gulf rig explosion
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JACKSON, Miss. — The victims had gritty jobs with titles like mud engineer and tool pusher.
Another worker's wife just gave birth to a son who will never meet his father.
On Tuesday, for the first time, as 11 bronzed hard hats shined beneath the spotlights and a cross, about 1,000 friends and family gathered together to pay respects to the workers who died April 20 in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.
It has been 36 days since they disappeared forever during a ferocious nighttime inferno 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Although their remains were never recovered, after an extensive search, all were declared dead.
Among them were Texans Jason Anderson, 35, of Midfield, who had a wife and two children, and Adam Weise, 24, of Yorktown, who was the youngest of four children.
The service included a choir, a Marine Corps color guard, a performance by Diamond Rio country music group, and eulogies by two corporate chief executive officers.
“These were exceptional men. They were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers and good, loyal friends,” Steven Newman, president and CEO of Transocean, said from a lectern flanked by the helmets. “To all of you here today, my heart is broken by your loss.”
Newman said he met with some of the families in their homes and shared stories of their lives.
Transocean paid for large groups of family and friends to fly here aboard chartered planes. The Weise contingent from Yorktown numbered 21.
The public was not permitted to attend the ceremony at the Jackson convention center. Journalists were kept sequestered from the service but could watch and listen to it on a video monitor.
No cameras were permitted in the press room, and neither company officials nor family members were made available for interviews.
Although most, if not all of the workers had already had funeral services in their hometowns, the large gathering was one more step along the tough road for surviving loved ones to find closure.
“It is helpful, absolutely, Dr. Britta Ostermeyer, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “It does allow the family of a loved one to grieve and feel we are honoring this person, saying goodbye to them.”
“You don't have to wear a coat and tie to be a professional,” he said of the workers. “They were hard-working, honest people.”
He said he and others in the industry don't know what happened on the rig but suspect that those who died had stayed at their stations long enough to help save the lives of the 115 crew members who were safely evacuated.
The disaster marked the beginning of what has become a giant oil spill threatening the Gulf Coast and beyond.
While in the aftermath of the explosion, some families have hired lawyers, others have said they won't.
“There is no way the company could have wanted this to happen,” Arleen Weise, who traveled here with 20 relatives and friends .
Each family was given one of the helmets to remember their fallen loved one.
“It was an honor to have been his mother,” she said.
A boat carrying researchers passes through oil floating on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana, Wednesday, May 26, 2010