(DETROIT) -- It’s been a few years since we’ve written about this. And this is an off year. The wreck took place on November 10, 1975. That was 43 years ago this past Saturday. The actual day was a Monday.
At this point, you probably would never have heard about it if you didn’t read here or heard the song by Gordon Lightfoot and the report by Harry Reasoner (Note the clarity and succinctness of Reasoner’s short item and wonder why that style of story telling has fallen by the wayside.)
Now, 43 years later, there still are no answers. And while there are bell-ringings and memorials galore, the horror of that day looks small.
We have become so inured to mass deaths, that a mere 29 men on a big boat that sank seems minor. It is not minor.
It is undiminished by mass shootings in schools and nightclubs, plane crashes, bus wrecks, train wrecks and even by the regular drownings of people by the dozen in overloaded tour boats in places like the Philippines, or Indonesia or Korea. It is undiminished by the endless “true crime” stories on TV.
The story of the “Mighty Fitz” would have long faded entirely were it not for Gordon Lightfoot’s poetic rendering to the tune of an ancient Irish dirge. That the wreck caught his attention and was transformed into six minutes of a poem set to a chant allows us to remember.
In cases like this, people want to know “why?” There will be no answer. Weather forecasters have tried to model the conditions of the storm on Lake Superior that night. Computer scientists have tried to combine those with communications worries. And there’s always the notion that commercial pressure forced the Fitz into lake conditions it never should have had to face.
Those of us who grew up on the Atlantic maybe too often turn our noses up at the thought of a lake as a formidable body of water. Superior is the largest lake in the world. It is the third largest by volume with 200 rivers feeding it from several angles. Put it anywhere else, add a little salt and you've got yourself a perfectly fine sea.
And that bathtub with a propeller? Standing on the dock and looking up, you could confuse it with a mountain or a skyscraper. Length? Bigger than most anything that floats and that you've been on. Seven hundred twenty nine feet. (The Titanic was 883.5, so only 150 feet or so bigger.)
We know what killed the Titanic, the Andrea Doria, The General Slocum, the Lusitania, the Bismarck. We do not know what killed the Fitz. A storm with hurricane force winds came suddenly and went? The bathtub overturned and broke up and went down, all so fast there wasn't time for a real distress call?
So, we remember. At least the deaths were not at the hands of some gun nut or terrorist bomber. Small consolation.
--Florida voters can’t seem to decide about who wins elections, but there was no doubt about passage of a ban on Greyhound racing. Thousands of dogs will be looking for new homes in the near future. Thousands will be turned out on the streets.
--In olden times, on Armistice Day, on the air we would go silent for one minute … the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. A commemoration. Couldn’t find anyone doing that this year, unsurprisingly.
“As girls, we could look at the football team and say that their tight pants showing off everything is asking for it, but we don’t,” -- Women’s track team member at Rowan University. in New Jersey which has prohibited women training in sports bras at the same time and place the football team practices because the girls are “a distraction.”
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
© WJR 2018