Posted by: suek2001 | November 11, 2010

“In the Big Lake They Call Gitchee Goomie”

It was 35 years ago today, a legend was born out of a weather driven tragedy. The Edmund Fitzgerald sank off the shores of Michigan 35 years ago tonight, taking with her 29 crew members and a lot of answers.

 To this day, there are a ton of theories as to why it sank but there can be no doubt as to why this modern shipwreck still matters all these years later.

Gordon Lightfoot made sure we’d never forget…and we are all grateful for it.

If you never grew up near the Great Lakes, the song is a folk song about an event long ago. For me, it is as real as it happened yesterday.

 Granted, I was four years old when the ship sank but for the rest of the 70’s the “Fitz” was a part of Lake Superior culture. Paintings, artifacts and books galore fill all the gift shops in the Duluth area. Every year “The Gales of November” events are held in Downtown Duluth.

Shipping is a way of life in my beautiful city. It is a tourist attraction and it is one of the most fascinating parts of life in Duluth. My Aunt Betsy, God rest her soul, had a habit of taking pictures of every ship that passed under the Ariel Lift Bridge. For a goodly chunk of those pictures, I was right there by her side.

 Ships fascinate me. They are long, boorish looking structures that move across water with a quiet grace that leave me spellbound. When they anchor on the lake, they have this allure of the promise of something great on the horizon. It’s just hard to explain unless you get it…

The only time I was afraid of ships was on September 11,2001. The Coast Guard ordered that all ships be anchored off the piers about 3 miles out into the lake as a security precaution. I tried to imagine terrorists using my beloved ships for their evil plots and it broke my heart.

I am so fortunate to live in a great apartment that has a perfect view of the harbor and canal. It’s a ship watcher’s dream and I’m living it.

Unfortunately, what happened 35 years ago tonight was a nightmare for the families that live with the loss every day. It is a reminder that Lake Superior is a beautiful and dangerous body of water. It is a reminder that those graceful ships have to bend to the will of the waves or pay the price.

I hope that as years passed, the technology has improved enough to prevent another “Fitz” from going into the rooms “of her ice water mansions”. May all our ships and their crew sail in peaceful waters ’till they retire.


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