ROCKLAND — Nearly 1,000 people turned out Saturday afternoon, Sept. 24 for the formal dedication of a memorial to the 33 people lost when the merchant ship El Faro was lost at sea seven years ago.

Family members of local merchant mariners lost that day as well as those from across the country attended the 90-minute ceremony held on Atlantic Street where artist Jay Sawyer turned over his most ambitious work of art to the community.

The dedication of the “El Faro Salute!” was filled with emotional speeches about the loss of the crew, and the power of art.

The Rev. Peter Panagore spoke about how the memorial speaks of humanity, soul, love, and healing.

The Rev. Panagore noted that if you look at the “El Faro Salute!” at the correct angle, you can see the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, pointing out that El Faro means the lighthouse in Spanish.

Rockland Mayor Ed Glaser also spoke.

“I think it’s fitting that a memorial like this should be here in Rockland, on land that used to be one of our major shipyards. Rockland has always been a maritime city, built on the ocean, looking to the water to make our living.

It also seems fitting that on the day that we dedicate this memorial there is another hurricane churning just offshore, reminding us of their awesome and destructive power,” Glaser said.

“Sadly, this memorial is here to remind us of the loss of 33 people, all individuals who worked on the ocean, but it can also stand as a reminder of what it means to be a maritime community, and the strength that that gives us. We are stronger because of who we are, and because we remember. And, not to lessen the tragedy of the loss of the El Faro crew, but so many of our best and brightest have lost their lives working on the ocean, this will hopefully help us remember them too.

As we stand and look at this memorial, now our memorial, we see the ocean in the background. We look out at the ocean the way we always have, but now we have something to help us remember,” the mayor said.

The name of each of the 33 lost at sea was read with a bell sounding each time. Bay Winds North Wind Ensemble performed several selections including “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”

A group of Midcoast residents sang an original a cappella selection written and directed by Susan Marckoon Jones of Union, titled “To Those Who Go Down to the Seas in Ships.” Jones composed the song in 2015 following the El Faro tragedy.

Sawyer, a Rockland native who now lives in Warren, said he hopes the memorial will offer comfort to the families of those lost aboard the El Faro. The artist also said he hopes it gives the public a greater appreciation of the sacrifices made by those who go to sea.

“On a clear day, you can see merchant ships far out beyond the breakwater, heading up to Searsport. They keep the world going,” Sawyer said.

The steel sculpture, “EL FARO SALUTE!” is a memorial to the 33 crew members lost at sea when their ship, the SS El Faro, went down during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1, 2015. The crew included five Maine Maritime Academy graduates; four lived in Maine and two were Rockland residents — 34-year-old second mate Danielle Randolph and 23-year-old third assistant engineer Dylan Meklin. In all, eight crew members called New England home.

The memorial is located on land owned by Dragon Products. Sawyer thanked the company for allowing the public art to be located there. He thanked the city for its assistance and having the site located along the Rockland Harbor Trail.

He said his journey is much like Rockland’s, transitioning from industry to culture. He was a Maine Maritime graduate and served as a merchant mariner for five years.

“We are on parallel paths,” he said.

Sawyer is well-known in Maine for his series of fabricated spheres. His work entitled “Ridin’ the Rails to Rockland” is prominently placed at the end of the rail line overlooking Sandy Beach in Rockland, nearby where the “EL FARO SALUTE!” is located.

Family and friends left flowers in front of the “El Faro Salute!” memorial. Photo by Stephen Betts

The color guard for the ceremony included members of the Maine and Massachusetts Maritime Academies. Photo by Stephen Betts

Jay Sawyer spoke at length about the journey that led to the creation of the “El Faro Salute!”  Photo by Stephen Betts

Photo by Stephen Betts

Marlene Hall conducts the Bay Winds North Wind Ensemble. Photo by Stephen Betts