JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the NTSB begins their investigation into what may have happened to the missing cargo ship El Faro, and as the Coast Guard continues their search for the vessel, family members of the missing crew are remembering their loved ones as they continue to hold out hope or search to find closure.
Tuesday night a prayer vigil was held for family members of the crew lead by Reverend Robert Green at the Seafarers Union Hall.
Green also happens to be the father of 32-year-old LaShawn Rivera, who was on the ship when it disappeared in the Atlantic last week.
Rivera's great uncle has been speaking on the family's behalf, but Tuesday Green decided to speak as well and said that he's not giving up hope.
"Until every lifeboat is recovered and raft is accounted for, and every suit is checked off the list, than we have to assume that there is somebody out there in a raft, a suit, or a boat, waiting to be rescued," Green said.
Green's son, LaShawn Rivera, is a father of two, with a third child, Tatiana Green, who is due in November.
"Once they got the ultrasound they began to think about names. That's how excited he was about building his family and building a life going forward," Green said.
But it is his son's future that Green said he is holding out hope for.
"We're envisioning Shawn in survival mode. We know how tough he is, we know that if there is a fight to be fought, he's fighting it. If there's a fight to be won, he's winning it," Green said.
Green doesn't want to speculate on who's at fault for the ship ending up in the path of hurricane Joaquin. His No. 1 focus is rescue and recovery and he believes there are agencies that will follow up on that and reveal who is responsible.
Green said the window for recovery is closing fast but that he's a Godly man and believes he and his son will talk again.
"I think we all don't know sometimes, when the last time, or when there's going to be trouble between the time we speak to our loved one. I would recommend anyone who's walking out the door, treat them as if it's the last time you'll see them," Green said.
"If I don't see him again on this side, I pray to God that we're together on his side."
Green said if in the future if family members want to join in on their Tuesday night prayer sessions they can. He said he's hoping to help anyone he can in the coming weeks and months.
To be a part of the prayer sessions people can call in at 605-562-0020 and enter the free conference code, 970 113 846.
Family members of Mariette Wright, one of the women on the El Faro, are not as hopeful and are starting to accept she may never be found.
Melinda Mahar lived with Wright for a year and said they were very close. She said the moment she heard the ship was lost she feared the worst because Wright oftentimes spoke about her job and how dangerous it was. Mahar said that danger didn't scare Mariette, in fact, it drove her.
"A ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships are made for. That's how she lived, just like that," Mahar said. "Everything was full steam ahead with her. Every emotion, every passion, she didn't do anything just a little bit."
During the year that they lived together Mahar said she learned so much from Wright.
"She's probably the smartest person I've ever known. She has the most intellectual curiosity of anyone I've ever known," Mahar said.
Maher believes Mariette and her mother Mary are strikingly similar, both were risk takers with a huge sense of adventure. During conversations, Wright told Maher her favorite place to sail for work was southern Europe, her least favorite was the Middle East.
Maher says the last time Mariette sailed to Pakistan, authorities wanted to arrest her because she wasn't dressed to their liking. She said Mariette never let that get her down. But one thing Wright wanted to see more of was respect and appreciation for everything sailors and merchant marines do on a daily basis.
"She was a woman in that industry as a merchant marine. That's not an easy thing, any woman in that industry will tell you that," Mahar said. "You work until you drop, that's what these people do. Every day they're out there in the freezing cold or beating hot sun. Even when they enter a port, they're working, and what they're doing is delivering goods for us."
Maher hopes anyone who knew Wright will reach out to the family, she believes her mother and sisters need the support right now.
Anyone with information or memories can email Channel 4's Heather Leigh at HLeigh@wjxt.com.