Read in the local paper this morning that today marks the 37th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I can still well recall when this disaster happened. I was a teenager at the time, growing up in southeastern Michigan, so my family got news from the Detroit and Flint media markets. The news coverage of the ill-fated ore boat's last voyage was huge, and rightly so. It was a real tragedy and a very sorrowful time.
Living in the Great Lakes region, my family was well-used to seeing the ore boats and freighters out on the open waters of Lake Huron. Even from a distance their massive size was apparent. It never crossed my mind before the wreck that one of these behemoths would ever sink. Shipwrecks? In the late 20th C? Wouldn't weather forecasting prevent such a disaster from occurring?
Thus, I remember feeling very shocked at the time when I heard the news. I'd like to think that today's vastly-improved weather radars will prevent a shipwreck of this magnitude from occurring on the Great Lakes again, but I don't know if this is so. The forecasting of Great Lakes weather seems to still remain challenging at times.
Then, slightly over a year after the sinking came the Gordon Lightfoot masterpiece, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". I was blown away by this song, for it told of a true event, and one that had happened fairly recently. It told the story very well, with near-perfect lyrics and melody. It became a huge hit in this country (and in Lightfoot's native Canada), proving that the song had appeal beyond the Great Lakes region. One of my sisters was a foreign exchange student in Sweden at that time and she even heard the song played over there.
In tribute to the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a touching video can be found here.
And for more information on the song itself, read this.
Now I live even closer to a Great Lake than I did as a child, so I see freighters even more often (and from our house, I can hear their horns blow when they enter or depart the nearby commercial docks). I still enjoy seeing them on their water-borne journeys, and always hope we will never hear of another shipwreck on the lakes.
But today, I remember the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.