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What’s in a name?

September 19, 2010

The radio host was giving the latest update on the BP oil spill in the gulf.  He reviewed the numbers…of gallons of oil, dollars lost, estimates of damage, benefits owed to those affected, and the lives lost.  Then the show took an unexpected turn.  The host began to list the names of the men who died while working on the Deep Water Horizon.

He spoke about each man, painting a brief, personal portrait of his life.  He talked about wives and fiancés, children, unborn to young adults.  He told about interests and hobbies.  He gave witness to each life and the tremendous void left by each death.  I felt the weight of each loss as it spread beyond family to friends, to communities, to a nation, and to me.

I realized that in spite of the months of “late breaking news” about the BP catastrophe, I had only heard these men mentioned a handful of times since the day they died, and only as a group of 11 dead.  This was the first time I knew them individually, by name, with a life story.  I was embarrassed and ashamed by the lack of attention given to this loss.

Numbers are important.  They tell us the size of impact, whether we’re talking about the casualties of war, the rise in poverty, the dead after Katrina, or how many victims of domestic violence are housed in shelters.  Numbers tell us something must be done.  But numbers don’t speak to our heart.

Names are different than numbers.  I’ve known since April 20, 2010, that 11 workers died in the BP explosion.  But it wasn’t until I heard their names and stories that they stepped off the news page and became real.  These men who had lived, worked, loved, and died are now my loss too.

If numbers tell us something must be done, names tell us we must do something.  Names tell us that each number represents a person, a history, a story not unlike our own.  We are not separate in our moments of joy, not isolated in moments of loss. Ernest Hemingway knew it when he wrote:

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

On April 20, 2010, eleven men died while working on the Deep Water Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  Their names are listed below.  Their loss calls us to care and to act, for their deaths are our loss too.



Jason Anderson, 35, Bay City, TX, father of two.
Aaron Dale “Bubba” Burkeen, 37, Neshoba Co, MS, survived by his wife Rhonda and two children.
Donald Clark, 48, Newellton, LA, survived by his wife Sheila, two sons, and two daughters.
Stephen Ray Curtis, 40,  Georgetown, LA, survived by his wife and two teenage children.
Gordon Jones, 28, Baton Rouge, LA, left wife, Michelle, who was three weeks from delivery of a daughter.
Roy Wyatt Kemp, 27, survived by his wife Courtney, and two children.
Karl Keppinger, Jr., 38, Natchez, MS, veteran of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, father of one child.
Keith Blair Manuel, 56, Gonzales, LA, father of three daughters, avid LSU fan.
Dewey Revette, 48, State Line, MS, 29 years experience drilling.
Shane Roshto, 22, Franklin Co, MS, survived by his wife, Natalie, and a toddler son.
Adam Weise, 24, Yorktown, TX, youngest of four children, started working offshore after graduating from high school.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan ward permalink
    September 19, 2010 2:56 pm

    Thoughts and prayers for each of the families you have mentioned. Thanks for honoring them in this way.

  2. February 11, 2012 5:06 pm

    I have often wondered about the men who were lost. Thank you for honoring them; for giving them something of value. They do not deserve to be but numbers in tragedy. If we can sing out the names of those killed on 9/11 we can sing out the names of all our dead.

    XO Jen

    • February 11, 2012 10:13 pm

      I absolutely agree that the least we can do is “sing out” the names of all our dead. Names take us to people’s stories. Thanks for reading!


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