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EDITORIAL: No stranger to tragedy

Two hockey sticks now top the lobster trap tree in Tignish, in memory of Ethan Reilly and Alex Hutchinson. Tignish recreation director Tina Richard has invited the community to leave a hockey stick and say a prayer in their memory.
Two hockey sticks now top the lobster trap tree in Tignish, in memory of Ethan Reilly and Alex Hutchinson. The community is invited to leave a hockey stick and say a prayer in their memory. - Contributed

West Prince is in mourning –– again.

No stranger to tragedy, the people in the western region of the Island have again witnessed an all-too-familiar scene.

At 9:30 p.m., a week ago today, the search began for two missing boys, both 17, after the small craft they were in succumbed to the waves of Cascumpec Bay at the southern edge of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Max MacIsaac, also 17, managed to swim to shore, about one-kilometre from where the dory capsized near Fox Point, where he made the 911 call for help, and the search for Ethan Reilly and Alex Hutchinson began in earnest. Rescue efforts initially included the Maritime Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC), the RCMP, P.E.I. Ground Search and Rescue and, of course, and to no one's surprise, members of the West Prince community at large.

All of these organizations performed their duties admirably, working faithfully to return Ethan and Alex to their families; we commend them for their efforts. But it is the resiliency of the people of West Prince that shows us, every time, what it means to be part of the Island community.

Ethan Reilly's body was recovered from the water on Sunday, four days after the tragedy, by RCMP divers called in to help in the rescue effort. The search for Alex Hutchinson continues. And, hurricane-be-damned, the people here will fight on until they bring him home.

"They won't rest til Alex is found," Jacinta Gaudet, a friend of the missing teen's grandfather, told The Guardian in the hours before the remnants of hurricane Teddy were to hit the province.

To further drive home her point, reports indicate that Kyle Reilly, whose son's body was pulled from the dark water just a day earlier, spent all day Monday on the bay looking for his boy's friend who had still not been found.

These heart-wrenching stories demonstrate who we are as people. They don't, however, change the perils of living and working on and beside the sea.

It was just two years ago almost to the day in 2018, that an eerily similar incident played out not too far up the coast from last week's tragedy.

Back then, Tanner Gaudet dragged himself up the shoreline to the Wind 'n Reef Restaurant. There, the soaking 22-year-old was wrapped in tablecloths that had been warmed up in a clothes dryer, after the young man had survived the sinking of the Kyla Anne, a fishing boat that had capsized eight-kilometres off North Cape. Like last week's experience, that event saw one sailor make a harrowing swim for shore to call for help while, sadly, two others didn't make it.

These recent incidents are firm reminders of the power of the ocean and our dependency on it. There's a monument at Tignish with dozens of names on it. Every one of those individuals thought they were coming home when they set sail – too often they don't.

The water that surrounds our Island binds us together – but tragically, sometimes, it rips us apart.

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