Memorial Service Remembers 11 Oil Rig Workers

Bloggers have called them "the forgotten 11" — the workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank last month in the Gulf of Mexico. With almost all of the attention on the still gushing BP oil well in the Gulf, family members wanted a chance to spotlight their loved ones. A private service was held in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday.

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DAVID GREENE, host:

They've been called the Forgotten 11 - the workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank last month in the Gulf of Mexico. With almost all of the attention on the BP oil well that's still gushing, family members wanted a chance to remember their loved ones. Here's NPR's Russell Lewis.

RUSSELL LEWIS: The owner of the rig, Transocean, chose Jackson, Mississippi because it's centrally located for relatives and because its convention center could accommodate the predicted 1,000 people in attendance. The affair was part-somber, part-revival.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Hallelujah, by and by, you know I, oh I'll fly away. Oh, you know...

LEWIS: This gospel choir sang near where 11 bronze hard hats rested in a semicircle in front of a white cross. The bodies of the men were never found. Transocean CEO Steven Newman fought back tears several times.

Mr. STEVEN NEWMAN (CEO, Transocean): This is one of the most difficult days for many of us here, but for the families of our 11 lost colleagues, this is just another of many difficult days.

LEWIS: Newman visited many of these families in their homes after the accident. He recalled that Karl Kleppinger loved NASCAR but didn't like cats. In fact, he called the family cat, dog. Or how Stephen Curtis wore a camouflaged tuxedo vest on his wedding day. Most of these men were married with kids - one wife just gave birth to a son who will never know his father.

(Soundbite of bell ringing)

LEWIS: The convention hall went silent as a ship's bell rang 11 times. Security was tight during the ceremony. Transocean sequestered reporters and wouldn't allow any interviews. Some families are suing Transocean, but a relative of every worker who died was in attendance.

Russell Lewis, NPR News, Jackson, Mississippi.

(Soundbite of music)

GREENE: This is NPR News.

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