Submission for the Oprah Show: Have You Ever Had a Near-Death Experience?

1706 people almost died suddenly as our Italian luxury liner, Andrea Doria, was penetrated by the Swedish liner, Stockholm. My grandparents and I were immigrating to America (from Italy) as we experienced the most catastrophic collision in history during peacetime on July 25, 1956. There were 51 fatalities and hundreds of injured passengers as many were crushed, thrown, overwhelmed by fumes, or catapulted onto the Stockholm.

The most traumatic moments are indelible from my mind: the loud crash, praying for a merciful death, being dangled over the dark Atlantic with a rope around my waist, the packed lifeboat ride from hell, climbing a ‘skyscraper’ rescue ship on a Jacob’s ladder, and more.

I have learned that on the other side of tragedy, there is always a lifeline–gratitude! The catastrophe gave me the opportunity to be grateful for:
*documenting the human and scientific facts in a book, “Alive on the Andrea Doria! The Greatest Sea Rescue in History.
*thanking my grandparents for bringing me to America by dedicating my book to them
*vindicating our captain, crew, and the Italian maritime industry
*becoming a proponent of safety at sea along with the national chairman of marine forensics (James Cameron’s consultant).

My view of life is that we have two choices when faced with survival: sink or swin. I’ve been swimming to safe harbors in spite of several major trials–my husband’s passing at 33, severance from family ties in Italy and the U.S., loneliness, and personal illness. I’m grateful for all of these experiences as they have made me stronger.

I’ve learned to live my life to the brim: writing, speaking, advocating marine safety, etc. (after 37 years of teaching.) As a result, I’ve been honored with many life-achievement awards. I’ve also learned that in order to survive, we must constantly adapt—even if it means re-inventing ourselves.
I believe in the wisdom of Charles Darwin: in order to survive we must be “most responsive to change.”

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