A quiet and unsung community within the Bayou Region deserves recognition and remembrance.
The recent loss of a Terrebonne Parish captain, Lester Naquin Jr., and two of his crew, sent mournful waves through the Bayou Region. Those waves arrived at the shore of the PAC Marina in Montegut, Saturday, February 1st during a candlelight vigil.
People from every walk of life arrived in an impressive show of human solidarity. These included friends, family, locals, out-of-staters, tribe members, and crew members from other vessels. The strength of character on display was inspiring. Even the father of T-Les (as Naquin Jr. was known locally) never lost his composure, soldiering his way through the many condolences.
The unfairness of it all was palpable from him. Speaking with him caused my heart to drop as I saw that the emotions on his face reflected those of my grandfather after my mother’s passing. A parent who outlives their child bears the weight of tragedy more than most.
For Mr. Naquin Sr. there’s an added burden – that of the unknown. Closure for him, and the rest of T-Les’s family, may not come for months. To retrieve the vessel, salvagers are at the whims of the Mississippi River.
“Death is at all times solemn, but never so much as at sea,” wrote Richard Henry Dana Jr., an American sailor. “A man dies on shore – you follow his body to the grave and a stone marks the spot… There is always something which helps you realize it when it happens, and to recall it when it has passed.”
For the family of those lost, only the vacancy remains.
The dangers captains and their crew face have grown distant to us over the years. No longer do we have the likes of Mark Twain to herald us with tales of that lifestyle. The river herself too has grown more treacherous with each passing year. It seems not a year has gone by when the spillway wasn’t being considered to be opened lest it be overtopped.
The captains and crew of vessels operating her waters are braving these dangers on a daily basis. We may remain oblivious to this, but I doubt the captains and crews ever grow numb to it. Even the U.S. Coastguard official I spoke with, Scott Talbot, lead controller for the sector of New Orleans Command Center and Search and Rescue Coordinator, couldn’t help but confirm this, unprompted I might add.
“That’s just a dangerous body of water,” he said. “My hats off to anyone who operates on it.”
So, as the rest of the world mourns celebrities, I ask that readers keep these courageous sailors, and families, in their thoughts.