When Caleb Holloway hears the traditional Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art,” he feels both serenity and sorrow.
“It brings a smile to my face,” he says. “But it also brings tears to my eyes.”
“How Great Thou Art” reminds Holloway of his friend Adam Weise, who died on while working on the Deepwater Horizon. On April 20, 2010, a blowout coupled with the failure of defense systems on the oil drilling rig killed 11 people and sent tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon, stationed off the coast of Louisiana, burned for two days straight before sinking 5,000 feet to the ocean floor.
Holloway, who was 28 at the time, was also on the rig and is one of the 126 people who survived. The tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon is the subject of “Deepwater Horizon,” a new film starring Mark Wahlberg. In the film Holloway is played by actor Dylan O’Brien.
“I think they did a really good job with [the film],” Holloway tells CNSNews. “It’s definitely something that’s very hard for me to watch. But as far as the story goes and the visual they did a really good job. I’m just grateful that there’s something out there to honor our 11 guys that we lost that night.”
Holloway particularly remembers an exchange he had with Weise that would take on special meaning after the tragedy. One of Holloway’s favorite songs is the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art.” He had lyrics to the song written inside his hard hat, something that Weise noticed. Holloway:
It’s a beautiful song, I’ve always loved it in church and it’s always been a special song to me just because I like it so much. I had written it inside my hard hat with a couple of other scriptures that mean a little bit to me. It was written in my hard hat…I had set my hard hat down and Adam, a really really close friend of mine that passed away…he saw my hardhat sitting there and looked at it and he said, “You know, that’s one of my grandmother’s favorite songs. I said “Really? It’s a special song to me, I love it. It’s one of my favorite ones to sin gin whenever we sing in church when we worship. He was just telling me how much his grandmother liked it….
It was one of the last conversations the friends would have. “I remember sitting in the assistant driller shack with Adam filling out some paperwork,” says Holloway. Then the rig’s head drill Dewey Revette called: “He said, ‘Hey, I need one of you to go to the pump room.’" Weise was killed shortly after.
“I went through the whole depression and post-traumatic stuff early on,” Holloway says. “It was awful. It was bad. It was hard for me to accept…I dropped a lot of weight. I just wasn’t that healthy. I was not making the best choices as far as being healthy. Mentally I was an emotional wreck for a while, in counseling. I found myself asking God, Why? Why am I going through this? Who did you take my friends? Why didn’t you take me? Why am I a survivor of this? Then one day it just clicked and I sat down and said ‘Who am I to ask God why? Who am I to question him? I accepted it that day…I put all my faith in Jesus Christ.”
“How Great Thou Art,” the hymn that had provided a special moment between Weise and Holloway, would be part of Holloway’s recovery. “Right after everything happened I tried to make as many of the memorials and funerals as I could,” he says, “and [Weise] had told Miss Winslette, his grandmother, that that was one of my favorite songs. That was one of the first songs she played at his funeral. They asked me to get up and speak….That song now is now just so special to me that every time I hear it, it’s an emotional song for me to listen to, but it’s such a beautiful song.
Holloway is now a firefighter in Texas. He is married and has two children.