By Wendy Van Den Boogerd
Special to the PRESS
Four days after the terrorist attacks of September, 11 2001, South Padre Island experienced their own tragedy. Sunday, September 15, 2019, marked 18 years since the Queen Isabella Causeway collapsed just after 2:00 a.m., where eight people died and three survived. As several locals gathered in remembrance at the island-side base of the causeway, somberness settled over as chaplain Sam Steele welcomed the crowd.
Mayor Pro-Tem Ken Medders, Jr. commenced the opening remarks, giving credit to the Laguna Madre community for coming to the event.
Maria Del Carmen Rios, Port Isabel City Commissioner, spoke to the crowd about miracles, talking about the three people who survived. She recalled the day the bridge collapsed, as well as the days that followed, and how strangers came together to help one another. She encouraged the crowd to continue putting differences aside and continue supporting neighboring communities.
Following Rios, the South Padre Island police department presented the laying of the wreath, offering a moment of silence.
In closing, Gaspar Hinojosa, Jr., the son of Gaspar Hinojosa, Sr., who died in the Causeway collapse, spoke about how he and his family were impacted. Unlike the others, Hinojosa, Sr.’s vehicle did not plummet into the bay: it instead fell into one of the Causeway’s supporting column’s platforms, leaving Hinojosa, Sr. stranded.
Search and rescue were able to reach Hinojosa, Sr., who pulled himself through the car’s windshield, enabling the rescue team to get him to safety. En route to the hospital, Hinojosa, Sr. succumbed to his injuries.
Gaspar told how his father was a man of pride and strength: he and his siblings knew that if anyone could free themselves of the wreckage, that it would be their dad.
Fighting back tears, Hinojosa, Jr., said his father would want the crowd to know that “we have to fight and keep pushing in our life and know that Christ’s love will conquer everything.
“No matter what you’re going through, no matter what trauma you’ve had, Christ’s love is there and will conquer anything that happens. The one thing I know about this tragedy is that what my father did to keep going, to keep fighting, not to give up has inspired me and my family.”
Chaplain Steele offered a closing prayer to conclude the ceremony, just before it began to rain.