OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Almost a week has passed since Ocean Springs Police Officer Stephen Bond was thrown from a capsized boat in the Mississippi Sound. As the days pass and the likelihood of his survival dwindles, his family's hope is as strong as ever. Bond's mother, Susan Vallette, said despite the odds, she knows he's still alive, waiting to be rescued.
"He's hurting; he's tired; he's thirsty; he's hungry, and he just needs to be found. He needs to come home," said Vallette.
Bond's wife Angela, along with a room full of his relatives, agreed.
"I know in my heart that he's out there, and he's fighting," said Angela Bond through teary eyes.
Bond said she has two reasons she knows her husband is still fighting to stay alive. They are his 7-year-old son Ethan, and 9-month-old daughter Rhilee.
"He loves those kids," she said. "He would do anything for them, and he's fighting for them. I know he is."
Angela Bond said it's especially important for him to come home because Sunday, Rhilee said "da-da" for the first time.
"He needs to be home to hear his little girl say da-da again," Angela said.
She said Rhilee recognizes her father's picture in photographs and on the news. Angela said until he's found, she's trying to help her son Ethan understand. Bond said that Ethan sent his father a text message Thursday telling him to come home.
"I know in my heart that he's out there, and he's fighting," said Angela, fighting back tears. "But his little boy wants him to come home so bad."
Beyond all the tears shed this past week, lies an unscathed sense of hope. For this family, it's not just possible that Bond is still alive, it's certain. Angela Bond and Vallette have surrounded themselves with pictures of Bond since he went missing. They cling to his old uniforms and draw particular strength from the one he wore as a U.S. Marine.
"These are his knots he tied to hold on to," said Vallette, pointing out a set of pictures of ropes tied to the capsized boat that sent Bond and four boat-mates overboard. The pictures showed ropes tied to the boat with loops at different lenghts. Vallette and Bond said the Department of Marine Resources told them those particular knots were only taught to marines, as a way of surviving impossible conditions. Bond's family believes the knots are a sign that he's still fighting.
"That means he's out there," said Vallette. "He's surviving. Now if he let go of these, that's 'cause something else came along."
The Coast Guard may have called off the official search for Stephen Bond days ago, but local law enforcement is still searching to find him. Both the Ocean Springs Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department have vowed to search until they find their fellow officer. Sheriff Mike Byrd searched the entire coastline all the way to Louisiana Friday.
Bond's family has also taken matters into their own hands. They've scoured land and sea in search of their loved one.
"We've looked and we've looked and we've looked, "said Vallette between sobs. "And other people need to be out there looking too. There's only 10 of us. We can only look so much."
This family asks that everyone take some time out this holiday weekend to search for Bond.
"I want them out there finding my baby," said Vallette. "I want every shrimp boat that's out there shrimping, I want every pleasure boat that's out there that can safely go out to look. I want people walking the beach looking for shells to be looking for him. I want him found."
She said she knows that if the tables were turned, her son would do the same.
"If it was anybody else out there, Stephen would be out there looking for them," she said. "And he wouldn't stop until he found them."
There is an emergency fund set up at Region's Bank to benefit his immediate family. Anyone willing to donate can do so at a Region's branch. The charitable account is in honor of Officer Stephen Bond.