Today at about 9:30 AM, a Cougar Helicopter (a Sikorsky S-92) went down off the coast of Newfoundland. Her cargo was 18 men from the Island whose livelihood was at sea, drilling oil. One person was recovered alive; one is confirmed dead and 16 more are missing. Losing people at sea is not new in Newfoundland and Labrador but losing them from air to sea seems particularly tragic.
Each year Newfoundlanders are faced with the sad stories of those whose boats capsize, or who fall overboard. There are, each year, losses that come with those who get too close to dangerous waters and get swept away. Somehow this one seems different. Our hearty Newfoundland people have relied on what was taken from the water for over 500 years to feed our existence and to forge a way of life that is not always easy. The loss of people to the deep has affected family after family from one generation to the next in Newfoundland.
Fishing is still big in Newfoundland but today is a new day. Now the riches from the sea come from kilometres below the surface. Those who work on the Hibernia platform, the White Rose Oil Field or the Terra Nova oil field are commuted to their work place in helicopters. In the new Newfoundland the oil industry is big. Most people may not know that 35 % of Newfoundland’s GDP for 2008 was generated in the oil patch off the island. Just as harvesting the ocean’s fish has been a risking venture, so too we are learning, is the business of harvesting minerals from the mighty deep. Those of us from Newfoundland are all today reminded of the last time we lost people at sea in search for the dark riches below the North Atlantic. On February 15, 1982 the Ocean Ranger sank while drilling on the Grand Banks. All 84 men were lost.
It is hard to imagine really what the families of those 16 missing men as well as the families of the one dead and one injured men are going through. Newfoundland and Labrador’s Premier Danny Williams issued a statement today in which he expressed the thoughts and prayers of the people of the province. Among other things, he said; “We are a seafaring people who have for centuries lived from the sea, and yet, we will never, ever be able to accept the loss of precious lives to the sea.” We are used to the message of loss and yet we never really accept how these things could happen. The Atlantic is very unforgiving. It is hard to imagine why these things happen. At the early part of the last century when commenting on people making in through tragedy and loss, evangelist Daniel Poling said this;
"God never promises exemption. He does promise companionship, which is better. He does not promise do deliver you or me or any other individual from pain, sorrow, or economic disaster, but He does give assurance the He will help us through and that there will be compensations. "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you." These are the words of Jesus."
I know that tonight the people of my homeland are pulling together and even in thought and prayer are doing all they can to be with those who have been victimized by this tragedy. People need to know that at a time like this companionship is all that we have and I hope that those families can lean on those whom God has placed in their lives for love and for support. There is no exemption from these awful things, but there is the promise that we to not go through these things alone. The victims of this terrible loss will lean on those around them in order to get through it all. God comes to us in those around us. The search continues tonight. The Survival Gear the mean wear is designed to give them the potential to live for 24 hours in present ocean temperatures. Each suit has a beacon and rescue workers are now working around the clock to try to find these 16 men. For the families sake I pray that they will find the lost.
A Prayer for healing from Communal Tragedy (which is from Kolot – Rabbinical College)
“O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea.”