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Losing 8 friends is hard. Fighting back is harder. Caleb Holloway did both.

A poignant reminder about the hard work skilled workers do.

Losing 8 friends is hard. Fighting back is harder. Caleb Holloway did both.
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Deepwater Horizon

Caleb Holloway didn’t plan on becoming a rig operator. He just wanted a good paycheck and a steady job.

After a string of odd jobs — working at a feed store, in hospital maintenance, and installing concrete — 22-year-old Caleb and his best friend applied on a whim for a job working on small offshore oil rigs. They were hired two weeks later and stationed on a little shallow-water rig called a "jack-up." It was hard work, but it paid well and Caleb excelled at it. Within two years, he'd switched companies and started working at Transocean on its flagship offshore rig, the Deepwater Horizon.

On this massive rig, Caleb found community with his fellow workers. Stationed together for 21 days at a time, they became a second family to each other.


Offshore drilling rigs similar to the Deepwater Horizon sit in the Gulf of Mexico. Image via Sara Francis/U.S. Coast Guard/Wikimedia Commons.

During his three years on the Deepwater Horizon, Caleb worked his way up from an entry-level job as a roustabout, to a member of the drilling crew. It was tough, challenging, skilled work.

Working as anything above an entry-level steward on an oil rig usually requires a diploma in welding, basic mechanics, or heavy equipment operations, plus specialized courses in marine firefighting and emergency response. Workers must be physically strong, highly-skilled natural problem-solvers — able to do their tough, essential jobs perfectly on a moving, floating deep-sea drilling platform in all kinds of bad weather and treacherous conditions.

"It’s a very dangerous job," Caleb said. "Everything on the rig is heavy; you’ve got multiple machines running and going in different directions. It’s a long job, and it can get to you sometimes. But I always think back to our crew and how we took care of each other. There wasn't a moment where I didn't trust them with my life."

Most of the time, there are extensive safety protocols in place to keep workers out of harm's way. Coupled with strong leaders empowering workers to speak up about problems, sometimes they make a big difference. Other times, they fail horribly.

On the morning of April 20, 2010, 10 members of the Deepwater Horizon’s drilling crew went to work. By midafternoon, only two of them were still alive. Caleb was one of them.

The Deepwater Horizon burns on August 20, 2010. Image via U.S. Coast Guard/Wikimedia Commons.

That day, the Deepwater Horizon was finishing up work on the deepest oil well ever drilled on our planet. The project was behind schedule and over budget. A chain of decisions, spurred largely by off-site executives wanting to save further money and time, led to a catastrophic explosion, a massive fire, and the largest oil spill in American history. Caleb and his colleague, Dan Barron, crawled through pitch darkness and aerosolized gas and fire to reach safety. On their way, they helped many others reach safety.

126 people were on board Deepwater Horizon before it sank. 115 were rescued.  Of the 11 crew members who were not, eight were members of Caleb Holloway's drilling crew. It was only after he was safely back on shore that he began to understand that many of his close friends and coworkers weren't with him.

For six months afterward, Caleb could barely function.  

Medications and counseling helped, but only bit by bit. Unable to eat or sleep, he lost 40 pounds off his already slim frame. He couldn't stop replaying the day over and over again in his head, imagining what he could have done differently and the additional lives he might have saved.

Until one day, he just couldn’t do that anymore.

Through the support of his family, his friends, and his bible study group, Caleb found the motivation to begin living again. Just over a year after the disaster, he signed up for firefighter training.

"Losing my friends on Deepwater Horizon felt like someone tore out my heart and ripped it into 11 pieces," he says, his voice catching. "There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of them. I wanted to go back to a rig because I loved that work, but I knew that mentally and emotionally I couldn’t do it."

For the last four years, Caleb's worked as a firefighter on the crew in Nacogdoches, Texas — just 20 minutes from where he grew up and minutes from his parent's house.

His shifts, like the ones he worked on the Deepwater Horizon, are long and tough: 24 hours on with 48 hours off. Caleb couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

He spends a full third of his life now in this fire hall, surrounded by men and women who, like his crew members back on the Deepwater Horizon, have become another second family. "We do something different every day, we impact lives every day," he says. "It’s something I’m proud of."

The Holloway family at home. Image via Participant/Deepwater Horizon.

For Caleb, being a firefighter bridges the gap with the work he did on the rigs, in a way, and the close relationships he had with his fellow workers, while allowing him to stay close to his growing family. That's something his wife Kristin and sons, Chase, age 4, and Hayden, 20 months, really appreciate. "They're the best thing that’s ever happened to me," Caleb says proudly. "They’re my heartbeats; they keep me going every day."

Caleb's experience is unique, heartbreaking, and life-affirming. But people like him put their lives on the line for their job every single day.

Image via Participant/Deepwater Horizon.

Mundane moments in our lives that we take for granted — that light comes on when we flick switches, that roads are safe to drive on, that toilets flush away dirty water and taps supply clean — occur because of skilled workers, some of whom risk their lives in potentially deadly situations just to make it happen. They're working quietly, doing the essential work that keeps our country running every day. While their work is often taken for granted, it's actually pretty incredible, too.

Watch a video of Caleb's story here:

This is Caleb Holloway. He survived the Deepwater Horizon and is now a firefighter in Texas. #workhard Participant Media

Posted by Mark Wahlberg on Friday, October 7, 2016

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Woman shares breakup letter to foot before amputation.

It's amazing how even the most harrowing of decisions can be transformed with a good sense of humor.

After suffering an ankle injury during a horseback riding accident at age 13, Jo Beckwith had exhausted all other options to escape from the lingering pain from the fracture, leaving her with no better choice than to amputate.

She could have buckled under the weight of such life-altering news (no one would blame her). Instead, Jo threw a farewell party the day before her surgery. Some of her friends showed up to write a goodbye letter, fun and lighthearted messages scribbled directly onto the ankle.

@footlessjo

The messages that came into #amputation with me! #funny #therapeutic #disability #amputee #fypシ


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."