Perry Cohen's mother pens letter year after son's disappearance

Posted at 9:11 AM, Jul 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-22 16:44:46-04

We are approaching the heartbreaking anniversary of the day Tequesta friends Austin and Perry went missing.

The two Tequesta teens left for a fishing trip on July 24, 2015 from the Jupiter Inlet, never returning. For days the Coast Guard and community searched, but there was no sign of the boys.

RELATED: More Austin and Perry coverage | Vigils scheduled Sunday

Earlier this year, their boat and Austin's cellphone were recovered off the coast of Bermuda.

Both of those items are being examined for any evidence that could help provide more information about the boys disappearance.

On Friday morning, Perry's mother, Pamela Cohen, released a statement as she grieves this anniversary approaching.

Below is the full letter:

Sunday, July 24, marks the one-year anniversary of losing my beloved 14-year-old son, Perry, who went missing at sea.  Today, I reflect back on my life with my beautiful son, the 17 days of anguish and uncertainty during the Search and Rescue, and my life without him since.  It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Perry is no longer here with me and not a single moment passes that I am not reminded of my loss.  I have tried to understand why he was taken from me, his family and his friends.  I struggle with the thought that a year has passed since he left us, and I survive one second at a time.  As slow and painful as each breath has been, living means accepting the reality of my circumstance; I am a mother who has lost her precious son and nothing will ever fill the hole in my heart left by his absence.

When the Coast Guard suspended the search and rescue mission for Perry and Austin, I was devastated.  There was no way that my emotions would allow me to grasp the magnitude of their 8-day, around the clock search that covered tens of thousands of nautical miles.  Today, I attempt to grasp the Coast Guard and the public’s herculean efforts to find my son and his dear friend.  I am forever grateful for every Coast Guardsman, Sailor, Airman, and civilian volunteer who took part in the mission to find our boys.

On this somber occasion, I must acknowledge the three pillars that have kept me going despite the grief and pain.  First, the love, strength and devotion of my husband, Nick, and daughters Miranda and Renni, along with our family and friends.  Second, my belief that Perry was always meant to change the world—my belief in that is his gift to us all.  Third, during my worst nightmare, one that I relive every time I close my eyes, the outpouring of support from the community, countless volunteers, private pilots, boaters and searchers from around the country and abroad who through their deeds remind me that I am not alone. 

For my Palm Beach community, I hold a special debt of gratitude.  For the Tequesta Police and Fire Departments, Jupiter Police Department, Palm Beach Sheriff, Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and so many others, thank you for your pursuit of answers to the disappearance of our beloved son Perry and his dear friend Austin. Your generosity, love and support are a lifeline for my family and I.

At sunset on August 9, 2015, we suspended our private search for Perry and Austin.  I did not want to stop searching.  God knows I will never stop looking.  But there I sat, heartbroken and face-to-face with my reality—my precious Perry was gone. It felt like something shifted in the spirit of the world, an emotional earthquake, yet all was calm. It was as though one particular and precise color was removed from the entire world with the loss of Perry. He will forever be the rainbow over my cloud. I do not believe that I will ever be able to understand why or comprehend the scope of this enormous loss. But I survived the despair, caught my breath, and with it came a dry-eyed moment of truth.  I would make it my life’s mission to make Perry’s legacy his destiny to change the world.  My husband, Nick, and I established The Perry J. Cohen Foundation (PJCF), a 501(c)(3).  The goal of the Foundation is to facilitate a deeper connection between America’s youth and proper boating safety standards.  While we continue to search for answers, our hope is that the Foundation will preserve Perry’s legacy and focus attention on important initiatives he cared about.  From education and awareness to the laws that govern its safety, we will work tirelessly to advance the best interest of all who enjoy boating.  To the Foundation’s many supporters—thank you.

Because of Perry’s love for the sea, a highlight of the Foundation’s work is its annual scholarship program that recognizes deserving students who plan to further their education in marine science.  In partnership with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, 500 students have completed boating safely classes, two dozen underprivileged children experienced our Environmental Studies Summer Camp, and another two dozen attended US Sailing School of Martin County, one of only three community sailing centers in the US sanctioned by the US Sailing Association.

Perry had a strong entrepreneurial spirit.  When he was barely old enough to carry a bucket of water he started a neighborhood car washing and detailing business.  The foundation strives to honor Perry’s legacy of creativity and hard work, and will soon award monetary grants to teenage entrepreneurs to participate in a new business development program in association with, our friend, Kevin O'Leary.

As the one-year anniversary approaches, I am humbled by the events being planned to honor the boys.  The 'Light up the Coast for Perry and Austin' campaign features over 200 locations and counting that will host candlelight vigils; from the Gulf Coast through South Florida all the way up the coast to Maine.  To my surprise, vigils are as far away as Italy and Greece.  While I wish I could attend every one of them, know that my love of you and your support is heartfelt and sincere. My family and I will sit on the beach where Perry grew up close to the inlet where he and Austin departed on their last journey and honor both their lives by thinking of all those who have prayed, sacrificed so much energy, and personal resources that would hopefully bring us some sort of closure.

To all of you who are honoring Perry’s legacy and helping him to change the world, please know that words cannot express the depth of my gratitude.  Your continued love, support and generosity give me the strength to see beyond my grief, pain, and irreparable sense of loss.  To our dear friends, neighbors, community, business colleagues, and family members who have stood by us from the beginning, we are forever grateful for your compassion, grace and love you have provided us. You sustain me in my mission to honor Perry’s legacy. For that, I am eternally grateful.

~ Pamela Cohen, Perry’s mom forever

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