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Curtis Wee, a diver from Monterey, signs a memorial at San Carlos Beach in Monterey on Thursday evening.

Patrick Webster wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke to a crowd of over 100 people from the diving community. Warm light from a late-evening sun fell over his face.

“Thanks for being explorers of our planet,” he said.

Webster, a Monterey-based diver of 10 years, organized a memorial at San Carlos Beach in Monterey to pay tribute to the 34 people who died in a fire aboard the dive boat Conception in the early morning hours on Monday., Sept. 2 near Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Ventura, California.

“A tragedy like this—aboard the premier fleet for diving in the Channel Islands—it’s one degree of separation from everyone gathered here,” he said. “The dive community in California is very small and very close knit.”

Like many gathered at the memorial, Webster had been on the boat, including his first dive trip in the Channel Islands in 2014. 

“I made some of my best friends on that trip.”

People needed a place to come together.

“I felt like there wasn’t any events being planned,“ Webster says. “I knew people were waiting for a place to congregate and talk with each other.”

Many people knew the crew of the boat or were one person removed from the people killed.

“It’s a tragedy happening to your family,” Webster says. “It feels like a personal blow to a very small community.”

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Patrick Webster, a local diver who organized the memorial, speaks to the crowd on Thursday evening.

Luke Kilpatrick came down from Pacifica, just south of San Francisco. He has been diving for seven years.

“This hasn’t happened at this scale to the diving community before,” he says.

In July 2017, he was aboard a diving trip on the Conception.

“They take care of you,” he says. “They were a phenomenal crew.”

Karen Schofield agrees. She lives in Carmel and has been diving for 14 years.

“I knew the crew,” she says. “When I heard the news, I was just in tears. I couldn’t find the words.”

Schofield brought a wreath with 34 white flowers on it. It was hung above an Scuba tank surrounded by cards and candles.

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