Loved ones await recovery of 2 bodies from Baltimore bridge wreckage a month after the collapse

BALTIMORE (AP) — A wooden cross is laden with Miguel Luna’s personal belongings — his construction uniform and work boots, a family photo, the flag of his native El Salvador — but his body remains missing after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

More than a month has passed since six members of a roadwork crew plunged to their deaths when a container ship lost power and crashed into one of the bridge’s supporting columns. Four bodies have been recovered, but Luna and another worker, Jose Mynor Lopez, have not been found.

They were all Latino immigrants who came to the United States from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. They were fathers and husbands, brothers and grandfathers. They shared a common dream and a determination to achieve it.

In an effort to honor their lives and their work, Baltimore County’s close-knit Latino community has constructed an elaborate memorial near the south end of the bridge. It includes decorated wooden crosses, a painted canvas backdrop, bunches of flowers, candles and a giant modified American flag with six stars — one for each of the men.

A group of mourners gathered at the memorial Friday evening to offer support for the victims’ loved ones and remind the public that even as cleanup efforts proceed on schedule and maritime traffic resumes through the Port of Baltimore, two families have yet to be made whole.

“It is one month, and there’s still two bodies under the water,” said Fernando Sajche, who knew Luna and helped construct the memorial. “We really need some answers.”

Sajche, who immigrated from Guatemala 16 years ago and works in construction himself, said it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the victims died on the job.

“They’re the people who do the hard work in this country,” Sajche said.

The men were filling potholes on the bridge in the early hours of March 26 when the ship veered off course. A last-minute mayday call from the ship’s pilot allowed police officers to stop traffic to the bridge moments before the collapse, but they didn’t have enough time to alert the workers.

One of the officers who helped block traffic stopped by the vigil Friday and visited briefly with some of Luna’s relatives. He admired the memorial and praised the community’s warm response to an unthinkable tragedy.

Organizers used two cranes to hoist Salvadoran and Guatemalan flags high into the air in honor of Luna and Mynor Lopez.

Marcoin Mendoza, who worked with Luna several years ago as a welder, said Luna came to the U.S. to build a better life for himself and his family, like so many other immigrants.

“Same dream as everybody else,” Mendoza said. “To work hard.”

Luna was especially well-known in his community because his wife has a local food truck specializing in pupusas and other Salvadoran staples. He would often spend his days helping at the food truck and his nights working construction.

As the sun set Friday evening, mourners listened to mariachi music and passed out bowls of soup and beans. They lit candles and prayed together.

Bernardo Vargas, who also helped construct the memorial, said he appreciates being able to do something for the victims’ families.

“I’ll be here every day until they find those two people,” he said.

Standing in front of the memorial’s elaborate painted backdrop, he pointed to a cluster of red handprints made by Luna’s relatives. They stood out among abstract depictions of the bridge collapse and salvage efforts as well as a violent scene from the U.S. southern border that showed a row of armored officers fighting back desperate migrants.

Loved ones left written messages in English and Spanish.

“Here is where everything ends, all your aspirations and all your work. Now rest until the day when the trumpets sound,” someone had written in Spanish. “You will live on in the hearts of your loving family.”