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Family members who had loved ones on the El Faro hold vigils


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sunday was a day of remembrance and celebration for those still missing loved ones aboard the El Faro. Dozens of families gathered for a candlelight vigil at Dames Point Marina on the city's Northside.

Despite extensive searches, the El Faro has been missing for nearly two weeks. Officials believe it sank after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin.

Family members said they picked the spot for the vigil because it overlooks the port and was the last spot in Jacksonville where the ship was. For the families, it is a place and time to reflect and come together.

Pictures of the 33 men and women hung high as music played to celebrate their lives. Their names were read as balloons in their memory took flight.

"I hear a knock at the door or a rustle outside and I still look up, thinking that he's going to walk through the door," said Carla Newkirk, whose father was aboard the El Faro.

One of the names read Sunday was Larry Davis. His daughter, Carla Newkirk, is still praying for answers. She said she still waits for news and longs to see her dad again.

"He would come home and tell stories and he was the type of guy who would get so animated with his stories. You felt like you were part of the story. You felt like you were actually there," Newkirk said.

Jackie Jones and his cousin were both aboard the ship. His mother said she can't move forward until she knows what happened to him.

"I really want some closure," Brenda Jones-Shields said. "I have grandkids and they're just wondering when they're going to see their father again. I'm wondering when I'm going to see my son."

For Jones-Shields, the Wing Palace is one of the places she feels closest to her son. Not only was Jones a mariner, but he owned the restaurant. Mourners also remember Jones' cousin, James Porter. He was also aboard the El Faro.

"I'm still holding onto faith that God will come through," Jones-Shields said.

Family and friends wore yellow ribbons. With the tragedy comes a feeling of togetherness and comfort.

"The show of love and just everything from everyone -- strangers. It's just amazing. It's just unreal and it's amazing. You can't put words to it," Newkirk said.

"I pray that their loved ones also be found, (so it can) bring us all closure," Jones-Shields said. "We don't have closure right now because we don't know where they are at."

As the families still wait for answers, others are holding vigils in the memories of their loved ones.


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