I want to share with you a very pleasant experience I had yesterday. I was invited to speak to the Livonia Town Hall meeting. They usually bring in well-known speakers. (Their first speaker was George Clooney’s father.) Obviously, I’m not famous, but I had been highly recommended by another town hall event planner who engaged me last year. These town hall meetings bring 500 to 600 attendees, and yesterday was no different. The banquet hall was filled to capacity—500!
When I arrived, I received such a warm welcome from event planner, Dee Dee Dittmar. Then, several ladies had attended some of my former events came to say hello and let me know that they were excited to hear me for a second time. I considered this a special validation of my efforts.
As had never happened before, a couple of ladies from a Livonia flower shop laid down the foundation for my display: roses on pedestals, a trunk and a suitcase; this evoked a feeling of luxury travel– such as that on the Andrea Doria! on top of the same platform, I added a survivor’s life vest, another survivor’s dress and purse, historic pictures from Life magazine ( August 1956), and other curiosities.
Then I spoke for an hour to an audience that didn’t move or breathe– so it seemed! After lunch, I answered questions for at least another half hour.
I felt as if I had had an extremely captive audience at the Livonia Town Hall event. Even if there hadn’t been a book signing I would have been very grateful. But the book signing that followed lasted another hour because I had so much interest– I sold three cases of books and audio books. (My publisher will be happy!) it was gratifying to receive very kind compliments from everyone. But more importantly, they all expressed what an incredible story I have, that they are glad I lived to retell it, and that it should become a movie. Many said it would be more interesting than the Titanic because it’s so multifaceted.
As with every event I do, I always discover Andrea Doria connections among the attendees. One woman pulled me close to her as I greeted her table, and she intently shared with me, ” My aunt was on the Stockholm when the two ships collided.” I was amazed! I asked her if she got the full story, and she replied “no” because her aunt only spoke Swedish. Another lady approached the podium as if on a mission to share something: she explained that she was on her honeymoon on Cape Cod when her husband’s best friend was summoned to be among the first rescuers to the Andrea Doria wreck site: he was serving on a cutter called the Evergreen. I mention it in Alive on the Andrea Doria.
As I drove home with a delicious canoli in my bag, i realized that speaking for the Livonia Town Hall meeting will always be among my favorite list of engagements. (You’ll find a complete list on my website, under Speaking Events.)