The family of Josiah, 15, left, and Jesse Clark, 13, right, is grateful for the outpouring of support that brought their boys home safe. Photos courtesy of St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office.

Update: Parents of Missing Teen Paddlers Speak Out

One week after two brothers, just 13 and 15 years old, went missing in a canoe on the mighty Potomac River, and were found safe on the other side three days later, the boys’ family is sharing their message with Bay Bulletin.

In a letter to the editor, Stephen Clark, the father of Josiah (15) and Jesse Clark (13), writes, in part:

My two boys are home safe. I can’t thank everyone enough for coming alongside my family in
our time of need. I say “everyone” because that was my perspective. I have never been involved
in an event where so many people and agencies came together in such a short time to
accomplish a common good.

The scenario would be scary for any parent: Maryland Natural Resources Police say the Clark boys left home at 9:30 on the night of April 3, from their home near Harry James Creek in Ridge, Md., on the St. Mary’s County side of the Potomac. The Coast Guard reported the boys took a 17-foot silver canoe with black paddles, two life jackets, and a backpack with MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) and other survival equipment.

On Tuesday evening the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office reported that the boys were found “safe and unharmed” near Coles Point, Va., which is across and well upriver on the Potomac from Harry James Creek. It was a huge relief to anyone following the search for the boys, given the long distance and often choppy conditions on the river.

Clark describes the outpouring of prayers and support from neighbors, friends, and volunteer search teams:

Thanks to those who prepared and brought us and the volunteers food, water, ice, alcohol wipes and other supplies donated from Ridge Dollar General, Panera Bread, Papa John’s, Boomerangs, Mission BBQ, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Ridge VFD Auxiliary. Thanks to those who took their own commercial boats, personal boats, kayaks, and vehicles out to search for our boys. Thank you to the drone teams and the K-9 teams for their efforts, and the news agencies on social media who got the word out so quickly. Thank you to our church family who ministered to us continually throughout. This community and beyond came to our aid.

Clark acknowledges the full extent of the search effort, listing the emergency agencies and even military agencies that helped find his sons safely:

Assets from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Ridge Fire Department as well as other St Mary’s
Second District and Seventh District Fire Departments, Naval District Washington Fire Department (St. Inigoes), St Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department, Calvert County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue, Charles County Dive Rescue, Smith’s Point Rescue and the Virginia Marine Police, the Northumberland and Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department in Virginia, US Navy SAR team, US Coast Guard, US Navy Test Pilot School, Southern Maryland
Paddlers kayak club and the Civil Air Patrol. All working together to find our boys. All the while both of them were completely unaware of what they had put into motion, but are now recognizing the gravity of the situation.

And finally, the boys’ father addresses possible criticism that the boys’ decision to take off alone in a canoe was a costly waste of resources. He writes, in part:

If all we take away from this is that we spent a lot of money, effort, and time on the shenanigans of two mischievous kids, we are missing the bigger picture. Our nation is becoming a divided nation…and it is filtering down to even our community. For at least two days last week in this very little part of our world the actions of two boys brought this community together in unity and love.

-Meg Walburn Viviano