WINDHAM — About 200 friends, neighbors and family members gathered Thursday evening in Windham to honor the memory of Michael Davidson, the captain of the El Faro cargo ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin last week.

As the sky darkened over the Fox Run Road neighborhood where Davidson’s family lives, people lit candles while one of his nieces released a cluster of 34 balloons into the night sky, one for each of the 33 crew members and one for the vessel itself.

The niece said each balloon contained the name of “the brave souls” who served on the container ship, including Davidson, a veteran mariner with more than 20 years of experience.

The search for survivors ended Wednesday, but investigators are continuing to look for the ship, which is believed to have sunk near the Bahamas in 15,000 feet of water.

“We can really feel the love,” Theresa Davidson, the captain’s wife, said during the gathering held on a grass-covered circle at the end of their cul-de-sac. “Thank you so much for coming.”

Davidson said she had not planned to speak during the vigil, but she used a microphone that had been set up near a full-size poster of her husband to thank the Windham community for its outpouring of support.


Thursday’s vigil turned emotional, especially after the balloon cluster seemed to hover momentarily over Davidson’s photo.

Shortly afterward, the hymn “Amazing Grace” began to play and the words “I once was lost and now am found” wafted through the crowd.

“We all stand here tonight not giving up hope because hope is all we have,” said Jessica Tooher, a friend and neighbor who helped organize the vigil.

The vigil attracted a diverse crowd. There were grandparents, children, police officers, state legislators, former employees of Casco Bay Lines where Davidson used to work, and several people who wore sweatshirts with the words “Davidson Strong.”

The University of Southern Maine girls’ soccer team has been using the Twitter hashtag #DavidsonStrong to show their support for Davidson and his crew. Davidson’s daughter, Arianna, is a member of the team.

Gary Plummer, a Windham native, former state legislator and former town councilor, spoke to the crowd. He said he was proud of the Windham community not only for the support it has shown the Davidson family, but for coming together during such a difficult time.

“I want you all to remember that this doesn’t end tonight,” Plummer said. “We need to make a commitment that we will be there for each other, the (Davidson) family, tomorrow, next week, next month and for years to come. We needed this.”

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