The Edmund Fitzgerald: A 40 Year Old Legend Part 3
“For the maritime community it was a deadly shock. It was absolutely devastating. This was something that they could not believe happened, especially under the circumstances. But later as everybody began to understand the enormity of the disaster, then I think you also saw the general public also become very aware of the situation. So at that point it becomes this huge news story for everybody.”
For families of the 29 men on the Edmund Fitzgerald, the wreck is not a fascinating great lakes legend… it’s a moment of life-changing pain.
Cheryl Rozman shares “I turned the TV on and the first thing I saw was a picture of the Edmund Fitzgerald. They were announcing that it had sank, and they were looking for survivors.I just burst out screaming, crying.”
Bruce Lynn shares “it just disappeared. That’s the thing that mystified everybody the most. A ship that’s 729 feet long that had battled these storms for years… that it could disappear that quickly. No radio distress signal or anything.”
Jim Macdonald “There’s lots of stories of maybe what happened. Nobody, I think, will ever know for sure.”
Rozman says “Only the guys and god above know what happened.”
There are plenty of theories about what sent the Edmund Fitzgerald to the bottom of Lake Superior… and none of them matter much 40 years later. What matters is the enduring memory of the lives lost when the ship went down.
“But I think it’s more important to remember that that was a crew of 29 men that were going about their jobs, and in a lot of cases they were looking forward to getting home.” Says Lynn.
Captain Cooper says ”Where the Fitz went down there is a thought that passes every ship’s captain when they pass over the area up there you think well geeze there is one of the better ships on the lake. It will always be remembered to a certain extent I don’t think you should make martyrs out of them they were doing a job and they got hurt”
“I know they knew they had risks of dying. I know my dad did because I had spoke to him about it. But they understood it, and that was their way of life.” Says Rozman.
The Edmund Fitzgerald sits under 535 feet of water … a grave site that begs to remain undisturbed. 20 years after the wreck, divers removed the ship’s bell.. The soul of the vessel… to create a memorial at whitefish point that everyone could visit.
“Overtime the Edmund Fitzgerald has become not a story of a ship and a crew lost in a horrific Great Lake storm, but really the story of a ship and a crew lost in storms everywhere. It has become in effect America’s story of shipwreck, America’s story of maritime industry and how powerful nature can be.”
“Remembering those crew members and honoring their memory, and doing the same for all of these other individuals who went down on shipwrecks through the centuries. That’s probably one of the most important things we can do.” Lynn explains.
Rozman says “That bell was probably ringing when it went down. And when they brought it up, the minute it hit the surface it rang again. It was like ‘I’m still here. I’m still ringing for the guys’.”
Belanger explains “As long as we keep remembering the Edmund Fitzgerald like we’re doing now, 40 years later, the memory and the crew and the ship live on. I don’t know how else to say it. A long as we remember, they’re still alive out there. They’re still out there sailing.”