(On Sunday, February 13, 2022, at approximately 2 PM, a Pilatus PC-12 went down in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 4 miles east of Drum Inlet in Carteret County. The plane was returning home from a youth/veteran duck hunt in Hyde County and had eight people on board. There were no survivors. The people onboard had close connections to the Carteret County Down East community, including four young East Carteret High School sophomores.)

The intense pain of a sudden and irretrievable loss can reach a depth in the soul where words are rendered inadequate and even useless. If talking loud and fast is our expression when we are angry, then talking quiet and slow is the natural and completely opposite response for when we are sad.

Maybe quiet carried so far as silence is the best response in attempting to share this kind of grief. But silence can be misinterpreted as indifference, which is clearly not the case. A tragedy like this with such a profoundly crushing outcome affects any caring community deeply and seriously. 

In this day and age few places exist on the planet where the people share the common cultural and tribal bonds like Down East Carteret County. The heritage of fishing, hunting, and to a lesser degree, farming, is so deeply engrained, that it even left its mark with a shared dialect. 

However, the events that have transpired over the past several days, to say the least, have had a significant impact on the local community that will last for years to come. 

With the enormous aviation military presence in the coastal area, Down East is no stranger to plane crashes. Military aircraft have the convenience of an ejection seat for the operator when the distress is too difficult to recover, so typically the loss only amounts to the millions deployed by the government. We detach emotionally by ascribing this as just a hypothetical loss baked into the cake of national defense. 

But even when there is a military crash fatality, as tragic as that can be, it typically doesn’t involve anyone from Down East. Every death is tragic, and every death is mourned, but it isn’t the same as someone who is closely held, with prominent siblings, parents, grandparents, a dog and a place in their midst. And it typically isn’t someone born into the culture, promising and bright, and standing out as a fine example of the people that make up this community. 

Because of this, many will say with us, that even though we didn’t know the victims personally, we deeply feel the pain of your loss. If any of us could fix it or do something to make it better, we would in an instant. But with these circumstances, good intentions don’t have a platform outside the spiritual realm. 

And that brings us to another part of the Down East culture. And that is the healing power of Jesus.

Years ago, a community of people were suffering snake bites, lots of snake bites, and people were dying. The people asked their leader what to do. The leader said take a staff and put on this staff the image of a serpent. He told them that when they suffered a snake bite to look at the serpent on the staff and they would be healed. And so it was. 

The leader in this story is Moses and the people are the children of Israel. Jesus made specific reference to this story and said that this is His legacy. When bit by this serpent called death, Jesus said we can look to Him and His work on the Cross for our healing. It’s only there that we can find solace for this incredible, burning, unbearable loss. 

That doesn’t make it any easier or any less hurtful, but as we pour out our sorrow on Him, He will give us the grace to carry on. Our souls have been marked by this event and we will never forget. May the families of the victims be comforted with the knowledge that many care and are praying for them in this time of despair. 

Nelson Paul is a real estate agent, former NC Coastal regulator, inventor, husband, and father of four, and a grandfather of seven.