The life of a land surveyor can best be described as having one foot in the past and one foot in the present with our eyes looking to the future. We have always been and always will be on the leading edge of the future. We will always look to the past to help shed some light on which way we should go into the future.

I am reminded of a family story that I heard about a young girl called “Grace Darling.” On February 13, 1862, John W. Kittredge of the Union forces began to bombard the settlers of San Jose and Mustang Islands. A small garrison of confederate soldiers, who were guarding the “Aransas Pass,” found themselves trapped on Harbor Island. Knowing they were in danger of being killed or captured, they planned their retreat to Corpus Christi under the cover of darkness. As the eight men loaded into two small boats to make their escape, they soon realized that no one in the group knew the way. All the local men were off fighting the war and no one on board knew how to navigate around Harbor Island and find the narrow, twisting channel through Corpus Christi Pass to Corpus Christi and safety.

Out of the darkness of night, a young 14 year old girl, holding a lantern, saw their distress and cried out in the darkness, “I know the way, I can show you.” The young 14 year old girl, covered with mud from wading across the mud flats of Harbor Island, boarded the small boat of confederate soldiers to begin their retreat to Corpus Christi.

I can just picture this young girl, standing on the bow of the boat, holding her lantern high to shine her light into the darkness of the unknown of the waters ahead.

When they landed safely in Corpus Christi, the soldiers asked her name and she told them it was “Grace Darling.” No one local knew of a “Grace Darling” and sometime later she was identified as Priscilla Stephenson. When she was asked why she had given her name as “Grace Darling,” she said she thought her actions were “un-lady like” and a 14 year old girl should not have been with a boat load of soldiers engaged in war.

Priscilla later married Captain Henry Hawley, an early pioneer in Nueces County. Priscilla Emmaline Stephenson Hawley lived out her life in Corpus Christi and died March 31, 1934. The story of “Grace Darling” lives on in the spirit of her ancestors. You see, Priscilla Stephenson was my Great Great Grandmother’s younger sister. She was also a woman made of steel and piloted a boat made of wood loaded with soldiers. She was willing to risk everything to shine her light into the darkness of the unknown to lead others to safety.

In the spirit of Priscilla Stephenson, I want to hold my lantern high to penetrate the darkness of the untruths and misinformation that we are hearing from our own Navigation District.

I cannot stand by silent and let the health, safety and welfare of our citizens or the future of my grandchildren be placed in the hands of those who choose to place us all in danger.

We have seen the dangers of flooding in the not so distant past and we are standing right now in the present and looking into darkness of the future unknown. We ask the question, “Will we continue to flood with every rain event or will we hold accountable those who choose to put us at risk?”

I ask one question: “Are you willing to be men and women of steel, who are willing to hold your lantern high to penetrate the darkening of the unknown of our future?” If you are, you can even give your name as “Grace Darling.”

Ella Wilcox in her poem, “The Winds of Fate” said, “One ship drives East and another West with the self-same winds that blow; ‘Tis the set of the sails and not the gales that tell them the way to go. Like the winds of the sea are the winds of fate as we voyage along through life; ‘Tis the set of the soul that decides its goal and not the calm or the strife.”

Remember, the set of our sails will determine if we end up on the rocks or to a place of safe harbor. The choice is ours.

Jerry Brundrett