Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Legend Lives On

30 years ago tomorrow, the Oglebay Norton ore freighter Edmund Fitzgerald broke up and sank in one of the worst Lake Superior November gales in memory. Probably the story would be remembered only around the Great Lakes if not for Gordon Lightfoot's song about the event. I lived near Toledo at the time, and the loss of the ship was a big shock there; it hit everyone hard, even people who had no relatives working on the lakes. People in Toledo still remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that the Fitzgerald had gone missing. Several of the crew, including Captain Ernest McSorley, lived in the Toledo area, the ship regularly called at Toledo during the shipping season, and often wintered in Toledo; Toledoans felt a kind of friendly ownership of the Fitzgerald. It had been years since a large lake freighter had been sunk with such a large loss of life; maybe people had the impression that somehow sailing the lakes had become safe and that accounts for the shock. But the sea, and the great freshwater inland seas, do not care for man and his works, and sometimes an awful price must be paid.

But we care. Thirty years on, we still remember, and wonder.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her....

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