This for some reason always touches my heart. Today marks the anniversary of the tragedy Edmund Fizgerald back in 1975. So today I find myself listening to the famous song over and over. It’s partially because I like its haunting tone and beautifully crafted lyrics. But there is something deeper.
I certainly wasn’t old enough to remember the events – I was only four years old at the time. But it’s something deeper. When I was a teenager, my Dad volunteered with the Coast Guard Auxiliary in and around the Manasquan River waterways in central NJ. It always gave me a sense of awe when I considered what they did. Most of the time it was saving idiotic and irresponsible boaters from their own stupidity, often pulling the ignorant joy riders out of the shallows that they impaled their shinny new speedy vessels upon. Others times it was towing the simply unfortunate boaters with engine problems back to dock. All with a smile, and perhaps with a smirk.
Dad always taught us to respect what a boat and – more importantly – what Mother Nature can do. In essence, “When in doubt, bring her about.” Dark clouds looming-- back home. Traffic getting heavier in our typical water ski lanes – back to shore. I may be a reckless driver in my car at times, but never in a boat. My Dad’s lessons and volunteer example always stuck with me.
Now consider the Coast Guard. They go out when everyone stays put. They risk their lives to save those unfortunate souls that to get stuck in Calypso’s wrath. That’s what sticks with me about the Edmund Fitzgerald.
They were simple sailors out to do their jobs. They lost their lives in an unfortunate and extraordinary event. The details are still somewhat of a mystery, but still no less tragic. Maritime events like this resonate with me – out of awe, out of fear, and out of respect.
So take a listen to the song as Gordon Lightfoot sings you a tale of pride and tragedy. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a way to connect with the fear and bravery that those 29 men felt on the turbulent waters of Lake Superior not so long ago.