Perry Cohen (left) and Austin Stephanos of Tequesta, Florida have been missing at sea since they left on a fishing trip on a small boat last Friday afternoon.
It's Day 7 in the search for Austin and Perry...
And the family and friends of the boys from Tequesta, Florida who disappeared at sea on a 19-foot boat last Friday are not giving up hope that they will soon be found and reunited.
The search has continued nonstop all week with coordination by the Coast Guard and the involvement of the Air Force. They have covered almost 40,000 square nautical miles since last Friday.
As I wrote on Tuesday
, the local Palm Beach County towns of Jupiter and Tequesta are tightly knit. The locals just won't give up on these 14-year olds.
The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, which Austin and Perry cruised past on their way out to go fishing in the ocean waters, is not only the symbol of the town, but has also been called the beacon of hope for all who await the return of the boys from Tequesta.
-------The power of prayer:
People of faith from around the world have turned to prayer for the boys and their families. Thousands and thousands of messages of encouragement and the assurance of prayers have flooded social media all week with the hashtags #findaustinandperry and #prayforaustinandperry.
After Sunday night's gathering at Austin's school, Jupiter Christian School
, there have been other prayer services and sunset vigils each night at the Jupiter Lighthouse and other locations along the beach. Anywhere from dozens to hundreds have gathered to pray with lighted candles. The local Jupiter/Tequesta community is steadfastly holding onto hope that the boys will be found and brought home safely to their families.
A cousin's prayer:
Austin's cousin, Natasja, asked people to pray with her on a Facebook post on Wednesday morning:
"Please join me in morning prayer:
Dear merciful Lord,
We know our boys have the skills, the will and the want.
Please, give them the extra strength they need.
We trust in your will. In your name we pray.
'I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.'
“This is a book that was found on Austin's night stand. If you look closely you will see that he wrote in the words "I WILL". His perseverance, determination, and love of life will bring him home. THIS IS A SIGN…."
~From the Facebook page of Austin’s aunt:
She shared this photo of Winston Churchill’s book Never, Never, Never Give Up
Why my heart bleeds for these boys and their families:
Since our retirement last year, my husband and I have split our time between our homes in Maryland and here in South Florida on Singer Island. We are here just 12 miles south of Jupiter while rescuers are involved in the massive search for Austin and Perry. The local Florida news stations carry updates and send out news alerts around the clock.
For many years, I ministered to the needs of young people and their families at The John Carroll School
in Bel Air, Maryland. Crisis ministry, sadly, became one of my specialties over these years.
My students, though, grew up in a different culture than the youth in South Florida. I never worried about the fate of my school kids from being out on boats on the open sea. My biggest worries were centered around their driving, substance use and abuse, and those who were at risk of suicide. We had resources in place to help our teens when necessary.
This situation here in the Jupiter/Tequesta area is completely different. Austin and Perry grew up on the warm turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean, fishing there and along the nearby Loxahatchee River. They had excellent swimming and boating skills. The variable in this tragedy centers around the boys heading unknowingly into a huge storm.
And that's why they have not been heard from since. Their capsized boat was discovered by the Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews far offshore on Sunday afternoon. And there have been no signs of the boys or any of the items that were not found on the capsized boat... their Yeti fishing cooler, one or two life jackets, and the boat's engine cover. No sign. Nothing.
These families have not given up hope:
The parents did not grant any interviews yesterday, as they were busy arranging private searches by volunteers with private planes and boats. A well-attended fundraiser was held at local Abacoa restaurant Gumby Bay Island Grill last night to fund these efforts.
Notably, hundreds of families and individuals have walked the beaches from South Florida and up north through the Carolinas looking for debris or lost items that might lead to clues to the boys' whereabouts.
My prayers for Austin and Perry and their families:
May our Heavenly Father in His loving mercy be with Austin and Perry in their time of greatest need.
May He grant their families comfort and peace.
May He open the eyes of those who search to see clearly that which will lead to their recovery.
May He grant His grace to all those who worry and fear.
May He provide comfort for all of us in these days of uncertainty.
We trust in the Lord's providence.
We believe in His promises.
We resolve to remain open to His loving mercy today and each day.
We pray to be people of hope today and every day.
In good times and in bad, God is good... All the time.
This logo that was created for Wednesday night’s fundraiser at Abacoa’s Gumby Bay Island Grill in Jupiter, Florida. The donations are being used to contribute to private searches by volunteers with planes and boats.
July 30, 2015 11:47
By Patti Murphy Dohn
The pace of life gets slower and sweeter each year during the summer season. People seem to smile more, children's laughter is in the air, and the pace of life seems easier to handle.
My favorite part of summer has always been the simple pleasures...
Fresh fruit and vegetables, beautiful flowers in the garden, relaxing at the pool or the beach, good books, warm sunshine on your face, longer days, music on the patio, and the best sunsets of the year.
July's two full moons:
It's July already... Can you believe it? Everyone is getting ready for their Fourth of July celebrations.
But wait... July 1 offers another one of life's simple pleasures: The full moon.
And stop again and take note...
This month we have two full moons to enjoy for the first time since 2012. We start off with the first full moon on the 1st, and finish the month with the second full moon on July 31st. That second one is called a "blue moon," and won't occur again until January 2018. So cool!!Naming those full moons:
I learned today that July's full moon is always called "thunder moon" because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month, as well as "buck moon" because bucks start to grow antlers during July. Who knew that?
Tonight's full moon rises over the Singer Island beach: To the right is a seaturtle nest which was discovered on June 19 and marked as "CC" for Caretta caretta, better known as loggerhead turtle eggs. (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)
Enjoying today's simple pleasure:
After dinner, I headed across the street from our home on Singer Island to the beach to watch the full moon rise.
It's pretty quiet here in South Florida now with all the winter snowbirds (the human ones) back home in the northern states and Canada. So I had a long stretch of beach to myself as I set up my tripod and camera to catch the rising of the full moon. There were low lying clouds so I had to wait a bit before the moon made itself visible.
I used the Star Chart app on my iPhone to make sure my camera was on track. My neighbors introduced me to this wonderful app last winter which shows all the stars by name and location, as well as the moon and planets. It calibrates your location just by holding your device up to the sky. Pretty amazing.
Video set up on the Singer Island beach to capture the rising of the first full moon of July 2015 (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)
The result of my hour on the beach tonight?
Four wonderful videos with the rising of the first full moon of July, 2015.
Enjoy this video of the surf crashing on the shore with the full moon rising overhead:
Some people say that wishing on a full moon is supposed to be good luck.
I prefer to say a prayer than make a wish...
Let God be in charge.
What a glorious time to offer up thanks and praise for the beauty of God's creation than during a moment of incredible wonder, such as tonight's full moon!
Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon of St. Francis of Assisi:
Most High, all powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.
July 02, 2015 01:01
By Patti Murphy Dohn
The beach by the Singer Island, Florida pump house (Photo: From the webcam at the Palm Beach Lake Worth Inlet)
Sharks... Just the mention of the word elicits emotions ranging from fear to excitement to trepidation to intrigue...
They have been in the news many times over the past few weeks. There was a huge buzz surrounding the 40th anniversary of the classic blockbuster movie JAWS, followed by close sightings near the shore line in a number of beach towns, including last weekend in Ocean City, Maryland. Newscasts have also included reports of some serious injuries, with a few beaches even closing down temporarily as sharks came close to the shore as they follow the fish migrations north.
South Florida sightings:
An hour north of our home in Palm Beach County, reef sharks swam so close to shore two weeks ago
that all the beaches in St. Lucie County were closed for the day. It was a huge fright to many vacationing families as this species of shark can grow to ten feet in length.
Check out what all the fuss was about in this 13-second video which shows two reef sharks snuggling close to the water's edge at St. Lucie's Waveland Beach. This video shows just one example of why experts advocate for swimming only at lifeguarded beaches and never going into the surf alone. Watch here on YouTube
An underwater paradise near the Blue Heron Bridge:
Phil Foster Park
is a stone’s throw from our home on Singer Island, located just north of West Palm Beach on the Lake Worth Lagoon of the Intracoastal Waterway. The park's beach, under the famous Blue Heron Bridge, offers easy access to an artificial reef and snorkel trail. The trail, perched just 200 feet offshore in 6 to 12 feet of water, depending on the tides, attracts divers and snorkelers from all over the world. Since Singer Island has the closest proximity to the Gulf Stream, the result is warm turquoise waters, with great visibility, perfect for divers and snorkelers of all ages.
The local scuba community takes pride that the Blue Heron Bridge was named the best dive site in the world by PADI’s Sport Diver magazine in 2013
. The vast array of marine life contributed to that designation. You can dive or snorkel amid stingrays, seahorses, octopus, manatees, sea turtles, lobsters, and countless species of fish, just to name a few.
Shark sculptures ready to be submerged off Phil Foster Park (Photo: Palm Beach Post)
Shark sculptures submerged off Phil Foster Park:
One man is trying to take the fear factor away from sharks with his artistic donation to the snorkel trail. Part-time Palm Beach County resident Thomas McDonald, also of Roanoke, Virginia, is an artist, diver, and underwater photographer. He created three concrete hammerhead sharks, each weighing 1500 pounds, and donated them as the first phase of a underwater sculpture park at the snorkeling trail off Phil Foster Park.
I first heard of McDonald's work when I saw a notice about the shark submersion in the Palm Beach Post (photo above). His plan was to incorporate his love of art and the ocean by creating and donating these concrete replica hammerheads.
Intrigued by the generosity of the artist, as well as the good fortune of local divers and vacationing snorkelers, I headed over to Phil Foster Park with my camera last Friday morning to see the shark sculptures being lowered into the water.
Divers, boaters, swimmers, and paddleboarders were out bright and early near the beach at Phil Foster Park to be among the first to see the hammerhead shark sculptures after they were lowered into place on the snorkel trail. (Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)
Glad that I arrived early, I was able to speak to a number of the people who have vested interests in the future of this area as a lure to the diving community, as well as a new cultural oasis.
On hand to watching the launch of the new sharks were:
(From left:) Victoria Van Dam of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Wendy Puz, Environmental Analyst for the county's Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), and Daniel Bates, ERM deputy director; (Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)
The sculptures, affectionately called the McSharks for artist Thomas McDonald, are five feet long and about thirty inches tall. They were lowered into the water by a crane on a barge during high tide on June 19, and placed into position by Pura Vida Divers, a PADI 5-star dive center located nearby on Singer Island.
(Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)
Start of an underwater sculpture park:
Daniel Bates, deputy director of the county's Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), watched the process with me from the shoreline, along with his colleague Wendy Puz, and camera crews from all the local West Palm Beach TV stations.
Bates shared with me and the television news crews that the sharks are the first pieces in an underwater sculpture garden along that 800-foot snorkel trail. Citing that there are other underwater sculpture reefs throughout the world, Bates explained that algae and coral will start to grow on these pieces within a few months, then attracting even more marine life. He likened it to an aquarium.
(Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)
And in turn, more divers will also be attracted to the area, as evidenced by the number who waited to see these sculptures once they were in place. Some families with young children were among the spectators, ready to snorkel over and get their first glimpse of the hammerheads.
(Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)
Bates noted that the Blue Heron Bridge is a world-renowned location and the Department of Environmental Resources Management wants to keep enhancing it. He praised the vision and generosity of artist Thomas McDonald whose donation was at no cost to the county and local tax payers. As McDonald’s plan came to fruition, there was a growing excitement from both the arts community and from local divers.
Always ready to cover the news on the waterfront is South Florida's own James Wieland, @SurfnWeatherman of WPTV.
After conducting interviews, James dove in and hit the snorkeling trail with his underwater camera to take photos and video footage of the three sharks for the evening broadcast. (Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)
It was so nice to be able to catch up with Baltimore's good friend, Sandra Shaw, formerly of WBAL-TV,
who has been part of WPBF's First Alert Weather Team in West Palm Beach for the past five years.
Sandra did special features on a number of our Catholic schools when she worked for WBAL.
As the sharks were submerged, sculptor Thomas McDonald was underwater in full diving gear watching the placement. Afterwards, he swam to shore and spoke to the news crews and spent a few minutes with me.
Thomas McDonald, sculptor of the three hammerheads and inspiration for the underwater sculpture reef (Photo: Patti Murphy Dohn)
Artist Thomas McDonald laughed as he told me that sharks “bring out a reaction in people… some are afraid of them and many people love that fear a little bit.” He was excited to share his hammerheads, which took four months to make, with those who visit the trail at Phil Foster Park. He donated his time and artistry to Palm Beach County in memory of his father who died in May and who inspired his work. Tom explained that seeing his plan finalized at the start of the Fathers Day weekend meant a great deal to him as he remembered his Dad’s legacy.
A diver for the past thirty years, Tom was intrigued by his first visit to the Blue Heron Bridge and fell in love with the marine life there. He told me that is why he chose this location for the donation of his sculptures as it “is a world class dive site." He added that "the County has been so helpful. I'm grateful for what they have done to make this project a reality today.”
Michael DeLuca, a rising junior at Boca High School, was also happy to be on hand for the submersion of the shark sculptures. He completed his Eagle Scout project there last November, placing two artificial reefs by the snorkel trail.
Michael told me that it "couldn't be a better location" because of the number of divers and tourists in the area. "The hammerheads bring a cool addition... It's great that they have been placed along the trail."
Enjoy these videos of the hammerhead sculptures:
2. This 2-minute video shows local snorkelers with the three shark sculptures, as well as some of the nearby marine life.
Come snorkel with the hammerheads:
Plan a getaway to the West Palm Beach area of South Florida and come snorkel along the trail with the new shark sculptures:
Phil Foster Park is located on the east end of the Blue Heron Bridge (900 Blue Heron Blvd, Riviera Beach, Florida 33404).
The snorkel trail can be accessed by walking under the bridge to the south side of the park, overlooking Peanut Island. The three sharks are straight out, toward the beginning of the trail.
For a few other stories on my adventures in Palm Beach County, Florida:
June 30, 2015 03:29
By Patti Murphy Dohn
"A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken."
Praying for peace with the boating community:
When my husband George retired last March, he bought his first boat from one of our neighbors in Florida. And when we returned to our home on Singer Island in early June, after I retired from my ministry at John Carroll, George and I went through the steps necessary to become official Florida boaters. We took the local course through the U.S. Power Squadron, passed the test, and got our Florida boating licenses.
Our next-door neighbor is the commander of the local Palm Beach Sail and Power Squadron and the instructor of the boating course. He encouraged us to become members, and to serve the squadron actively during our "rookie year."
The commander invited me to serve as chaplain, a role for which I have much experience as longtime John Carroll Campus Minister. And this past Saturday night was the annual Commanders' Ball for which I was asked to give the invocation.
Gathering for this festive occasion just two days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I made note to those attending the formal gala that we would be remiss to not pray for peace in the world. I shared with those in attendance that Blessed Mother Teresa said, "Peace begins with a smile."
The cost of a smile:
There is so much truth in that short statement, isn't there? When a smile is given forth, a barrier is broken, so to speak, and both parties are put at ease. Smiling costs us nothing and usually regenerates itself over and over.
The wisdom of smiling:
"A smile cures the wounding of a frown."
“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”
―Blessed Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
"A smile is the shortest distance between two people."
―Victor Borge (1909-2000)
"A warm smile is the universal language of kindness."
―William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)
"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."
―Phyllis Diller (1917-2012)
"Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."
―Blessed Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
"Here's wishing you the smiles o' life and not a single grumble."
"If you see a friend without a smile, give him one of yours."
"The world always looks brighter from behind a smile."
“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers.”
―Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been."
―Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever."
"If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it."
―Andy Rooney (1919-2011)
"I've never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful."
"All people smile in the same language."
"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."
―Blessed Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
January 13, 2015 11:39
By Patti Murphy Dohn