Those that attended the relighting of Maine’s Little River Lighthouse will be talking about it for years to come. Because of the recent terrorist attack on America, the ceremonies which were more than a relighting ceremony, will surely be a memory and story that will be passed down from generation to generation.
The event, a joint effort between the United States Coast Guard and the American Lighthouse Foundation was celebrated by what may have been one of the largest crowds to ever have gathered in the town circle in the small community of Cutler, Maine.
Because the lighthouse is on the ocean side of the small island off Cutler and cannot be seen from the mainland, there were two separate ceremonies, one on the water and a larger ceremony immediately following the water ceremony on land in the town center.
It was the United States Coast Guard out of Southwest Harbor, Maine that saved the day by sending a boat for the ceremony. The Coast Guard boat under command of Chief Boatswainmate Kenneth Hill was able to accommodate the overflow crowd of people that would not fit on the other boats and would have otherwise not have been able to view the water ceremony.
As a small armada of boats came around the island and in view of the lighthouse you could hear the oo’s and ah’s from the people as the flashes of the cameras made one think they might have been at a concert or a ball game. This was largely in part to seeing the newly painted tower draped in a large United States flag.
As the boats gathered close to each other to hear the ceremony over the microphone Tim Harrison told the crowd that they were witnessing history in the making with the relighting of the lighthouse.
CWO Dave Waldrip, the Lighthouse Manager from the First District Aids to Navigation Office in Boston then talked about the importance of lighthouses and why it is important for the Coast Guard to work with communities and non-profits in partnerships to save these historic icons. These remarks were then followed by those of Commander Hank Haynes, USCG Commander Group Southwest Harbor who thanked everyone and the community for their efforts and then presented an unexpected Certificate of Appreciation from the Coast Guard to the American Lighthouse Foundation for its efforts to restore and have the Little River Lighthouse relit.
A wreath was then laid in the water in memory of the lighthouse keepers and families that tended the Little River Light Station, helping make our country the great nation that it is today.
Although it was not yet total darkness, the light in the tower was turned on and for the first time in 26-years a beacon shown from the lantern room at Little River Lighthouse. Being dusk, the light was not immediately bright but as the sky darkened under a full autumn moon the light became brighter with each turn of the new lens, which had recently been installed by the Coast Guard.
Then a red, white and blue flowered wreath was laid in memory to those who lost their lives in the recent attack on America. Tim Harrison, president of the American Lighthouse Foundation, said, with a quivering in his voice and holding back the tears, “The relighting of Little River Light is also our way of telling the world that the American way of life will never be darkened and will shine on forever to freedom loving people the world over.”
The crowd then bowed for a moment of silence and prayer.
The boats then returned to land where another ceremony, much larger than the water ceremony, was held in the community’s Town Square or “Town Circle” as most call it where the original fog bell from Little River Light is on display.
The land ceremony, which lasted about 45 minutes, included an opening with the National Anthem and closed with God Bless America, both played by the Machias High School Memorial Band.
The service was begun with a prayer and ended with a prayer from the ministers of the two churches in town. It also included remarks by Tim Harrison and again by CWO Dave Waldrip, USCG and Commander Hank Haynes, a reading of letters from Ted Dernago, Chief of the Real Property of the USCG Providence and Maine Gov. Angus King. Ken Black, founder of the Shore Village Lighthouse Museum in Rockland was the former Commander of USCG Group Quoddy Head. He told about his first visit to Little River Light and finding that the station had no electricity, he ordered electric lines brought out to the island. He was followed by Maine State Representative Martha Bagley, who described the relighting as a new birth to the maritime history of Maine and a beacon to honor those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11th attack on America so that their memory will never be forgotten and that freedom’s light will shine forever.
Then, unrehearsed remarks were made by former keepers Terry Rowden and his wife Cynthia Rowden, and keeper descendants Neil Corbett and Delia Farris, who told some interesting, amazing and humorous stories of what life was like living at a lighthouse.
The entire ceremony was filmed by the History Channel to be aired at a future date. Jeff Dobbs Productions also filmed the event for the American Lighthouse Foundation archives and the evening TV news gave the event extensive coverage.
This story appeared in the
November 2001 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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