Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Even the birds fell silent Sunday as the bell tolled, once for each of the 29 names that are etched on the Lost at Sea Memorial at Morse Park in Murrells Inlet.
And while some tears were surreptitiously wiped away, there were smiles, too, as the nearly 50 people in attendance recalled the men and boys, husbands, brothers and sons who set off, never to return.
“When we lost Johnny at sea, we had no body to bury, no grave, no place to mourn,” said Brenda Brown, whose family was instrumental in the creation of the memorial.
Perhaps it is fitting that one side of the memorial shows a smiling Johnny Brown, holding a red snapper.
“That’s him,” said Brenda Brown. “A friend presented drawings for the memorial. This was the first one we looked at.”
She was joined by approximately 20 members of her family, people who come year after year, who remember the smiling crew member of the commercial vessel Tracie Lynn, which was hit by a rogue wave off the coast of North Carolina on April 2, 2005. Two crew members were rescued, but no trace was found of Brown, a native of Georgetown.
The stories of the others whose memories are recalled on the memorials are similar. They are linked by a tether to the Inlet or southern South Carolina, and a love of the sea.
“Seems like this is the only closure we had,” said Hannah Erwin, remembering her son Aaron Dale Erwin. The younger Erwin left East Bay Park in Georgetown aboard a 21-foot sailboat on Dec. 2, 1994. “There was nothing special about it,” said Al Erwin. “Aaron was supposed to play a gig that Saturday – he played the fiddle and banjo – and he didn’t show up. That’s when we knew something was wrong.”
The Erwins said that despite two planes and two boats doing an extensive search, no trace of Aaron or his sailboat were ever found.
One of the best things about the memorial is that no new names have been added in 2012 or 2013. The requirements for gaining a space on the memorial is that the person be lost at sea and have a link to the southern South Carolina coast, either leave from there, vacation there or have family there.
By Anita Crone
For The Times