— July 26, 1956 —
“Don’t jump!” we heard the crewman beg from above. “Wait your turn for the rope! Everybody, wait your turn!”
Is Patrick going to listen to an adult for the first time? I wondered in suspense.
I watched my ship buddy lower his leg from the metal railing. Those of us already in the lifeboat understood Patrick’s dilemma: Should a nine-year-old take his chances at survival by plunging into the black, shark-infested waters and swimming to the lifeboat? Or should he wait his turn behind other desperate passengers waiting to take lives into their own hands—literally—by grabbing the rope and slowly descending several stories?
Patrick was holding his mother and his older sister, Darlene, away from the railing, as if in command of the situation. Before my grandparents and I had abandoned the listing vessel, Patrick had been encouraging his family to jump, telling them, “I know the ship’s gonna sink. We have to jump now!” Was he now willing to obey orders for the first time on this ten-day voyage?