“We are holding out hope that my father will still be found alive,” Christopher Wood, 20, a sophomore serving in Texas A&M’s elite Corps of Cadets, tells PEOPLE exclusively.
“Until we have a definitive answer on his whereabouts and those of the plane and its passengers, we will refuse to believe that my father has passed away. He is and always will be a member of our family, and most importantly my father, and I wouldn’t give up hope so easily.”
James Wood, Philip’s younger brother, says he, too, hasn’t given up. He added that, regardless of the outcome, the family finds comfort in knowing that his brother, a brilliant technical executive for IBM in Malaysia, raised two amazing sons.
Christopher’s older brother, Nicholas, 24, who also attended A&M and served in the cadet program, now works as an IT tech. The sons have posted photos on Facebook of themselves in full uniform, standing with their father, who smiles broadly with his arms around their shoulders (see below).
“He poured all of his strength into raising good sons, and it makes me proud to be their uncle,” James Wood, 41, an engineer in Oklahoma, tells PEOPLE. “I see how they handle themselves: they’re composed, they’re gentle, they’re kind and they’re strong.”
Philip’s girlfriend, who was getting ready to move in with him in Malaysia, says she, too, hasn’t given up hope.
“Until there’s proof that Philip is dead, I refuse to believe it,” Sarah Bajc tells NewsOn6 in Oklahoma City. “If there’s anybody that could survive something like this, it’s him. I mean, he’s such a fighter and he has so much to live for.”
Family Standing Together
James Wood says both brothers have taken time off to stand by the side of other family members, including their mother, Elaine Wood, who, although she is divorced from Philip, is still tremendously respectful of Philip and the job he did as a father.
“Philip Wood was a wonderful man,” Elaine Wood said in a statement last weekend. “Although we were no longer married, he is still family. His sons and I just want peace and quiet right now.”
James Wood says his older brother helped instill a strong sense of honor and respect in him, as well. When James was about 8 and Philip about 17, James threw a fit when their mom put a bowl in the sink that he wanted to lick, he recalls. James said he acted like a brat, protested that he would run away, and stormed out of the house, bawling.
But Philip, who was standing outside, told him, ” ‘You listen to me: You don t talk to your mom like that ever again. You go inside and you apologize to her right now,’ ” James Wood recalls. “He knew what it meant to respect your mom and your dad.”
He also emphasized that his brother was a man of deep faith.
“He knew what it meant to have a greater spiritual strength, even in times like this,” James tells PEOPLE. “It’s in that spirit that we’re all staying strong for each other right now.”