Pensacola, Florida
Friday October 24th 2014

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Outtakes 5/23/13

Perdido Key Steps Up
By Rick Outzen

Perdido Key is seen by many as condo canyon with few full-time residents. This past weekend that myth was busted wide open as that community rallied to help search for a autistic boy, who was vacationing with his family, went missing on Friday afternoon.

Though they didn’t know Owen Black or his family, volunteers streamed to Perdido Key to be a part of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office search for the eight-year-old. A host of federal, state, county and city agencies joined them to help with the search.

Local businesses offered support to those covering the area looking for the boy.  The Crab Trap and Happy Harbor were unofficial gathering spots. The Tom Thumb and Circle K stores offered free coffee for the workers who continued searching through Friday and Saturday nights.

The longer Owen went missing the more evitable the story was going to have a unhappy ending. However, the community refused to give up. Volunteers continued to show up to help.

Sadly the boy’s body was found on Sunday afternoon washing ashore on Perdido Key less than a mile from where he was last seen.

A tearful Sheriff David Morgan held a press conference surrounded by volunteers. Clearly the last two days had taken their toll on him, his staff and the community. He addressed the media and the crowd less than an hour after he had delivered the sad news to Owen’s parents. A parent’s worst nightmare had come to an end.

“I cannot tell you about the response we had in adequate terms,” said the sheriff. “Every agency I contacted came forward.”

Pointing to exhausted men and women standing behind, Morgan said, “This is your community. When we said we needed assistance and Owen needed help, this was your response. As the sheriff of Escambia County, I could not be prouder of my agency and the citizens of Escambia County.”

Perdido Key is a community, maybe the fastest growing area in Escambia County. Its school are overcrowded and have enough trailers to qualify as mobile home park. The Southwest Escambia County Sports Complex has opened and is packed every weekend.

On Sunday, May 20, the Perdido Key neighborhoods bonded even closer. Every parent could empathize with the Black family and they wanted to help.  Tragedies such these that can either bring a community together or tear it apart.

Fortunately this horrific accident pulled Perdido Key together and its heart, compassion and unity really shined.