Families of workers who perished in bridge collapse feel 'inexplicable sadness,' pastor says

Redemptorist Father Ako Trevor Walker, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Parish in Baltimore, is pictured March 27, 2024. Father Walker is providing a spiritual presence to families of construction workers lost in the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in the early hours of March 26. Sacred Heart is a largely Spanish-speaking parish, and the priest is active in supporting new immigrants in the Baltimore area. (OSV News photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

(OSV News) -- Ever since the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed in the early hours of March 26, Redemptorist Father Ako Walker has been acting as a spiritual support to the families of six Hispanic construction workers believed to have perished in the tragedy.

The pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in the city's Highlandtown neighborhood serves a largely Spanish-speaking parish and is active in supporting new immigrants in the Baltimore area.

“I am here with them as a spiritual presence during this difficult time,” Father Walker told the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan news outlet. "They all have questions and can't find the right answers to this situation, so I am here as a presence if anyone needs prayer or anything like that, I am available to help them.”

Officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maryland State Police announced late March 26 that due to the length of time and the cold temperature of the Patapsco River waters, the six workers were presumed dead. On March 27, the bodies of two of the six missing workers were recovered. They were identified as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, of Baltimore and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26, of Dundalk.

Two other workers who had been on the bridge at the time of its collapse were rescued, with one of them sent to the hospital.

"There is a very, very strong reaction, a sadness that the only word I can use is inexplicable, a sadness that is affecting them,” Father Walker said about the families of the workers, known to be from Mexico and Central America. “And I can imagine the emotional scars they are suffering, the pain, the tears, the questions. It's hard to explain."

Father Walker said the families are receiving official information from different agencies such as the police, the fire department and the Maryland Department of Transportation. They’re

trying to assimilate the news and cope with the tragedy in the best way possible, he added.

"I am feeling the faith in everything because there are people suffering deeply and some seem to be accepting the reality of the situation that after so many hours, they may not find their relatives alive. So, it is a mixture of emotions," he said.

Father Walker said he hoped to be able to hold a service or a Mass in the next few days so the community can honor the workers and show solidarity with the families through prayer. He hopes they can find comfort in the midst of their grief and can be surrounded by the support and affection of their community.

Father Walker called on the community to accompany the families with prayers during Holy Week.

"During this very special and sacred time of the church, we can offer blessings and prayers for God to accompany them," he said.

For its part, CASA of Maryland, through its director, Gustavo Torres, confirmed in a noon press conference March 27 that two of the still-missing workers were members of his organization: Miguel Luna, a 49-year-old Salvadoran, and Maynor Suazo Sandoval, a 37-year-old Honduran, who had lived in the United States for 19 and 17 years, respectively, Torres said.

"In these times of attack and hatred of the immigrant community, we want to look at those quiet but extraordinary leaderships of Maynor and Miguel, who made a contribution to society for us to live well and comfortably," said Torres, who added that 39% of construction workers in the Baltimore metropolitan area are of Hispanic origin.

"We know they were hard workers who loved soccer, who loved their families and their communities," he said. "We know that they were both extraordinary human beings who came from Central America to this country, almost at the same time, to live the American dream, to contribute to this nation, to ensure that their families had an opportunity here."

The bridge collapsed after a cargo ship collided with one of the columns of the structure. Local, national and international media quickly rushed to the area to report what, for Baltimore residents, is a tragedy that affects not only the Hispanic community but everyone in general.

Archbishop William E. Lori celebrated a March 26 Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in support of all those affected by the tragedy, while some parishes in the area and beyond also celebrated special Masses.


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