The adult author lets the story float back to her childhood experience …
All of us in the small vessel, bobbing in the shadow of a dreadfully inclined liner, were trembling and crying—wondering if we were really safe as the swell of heavy waves banged us into the hull of Doria. We rowed away slowly but surely, our stomachs retching to the movement of each wave. I hate to throw upit smells awful inhere.Yuck, vomit! I can’t stop throwing up…
Trying to cross a mile of debris in order to reach the Ile de France felt more desolate than the ride of the Ancient Mariner. Leaving the sinking ship should have made us euphoric, but the stupor and shock made people lament ridiculous things: “I’m arriving to safety half naked.” “I’m lost without my glasses.” “I left my watch on the dresser.” “I left my teeth in the bathroom.” I admit that I wondered about my First Communion dress and hoped it would be recovered somehow. Moreover, during this ride from hell, we were privy to a sight worse than anything a horror film could conjure: the Stockholm, the Swedish ship that had rammed us, stood crippled in the distance, with its bow crumpled like discarded tin foil in a waste basket. On the Doria, the area of impact was an enormous black hole, inviting in torrents of water like a river in a raging storm. And its huge funnel was so inclined over the water that it reflected a red-hot glow on the calm sea.
As only an eyewitness can do, the author presents survivors’ terrifying accounts, outdone only by matching heroic efforts to save others on a dramatically listing ship…
Peterson and Rovelli now faced the daunting task of getting the 150-pound jack onto the Promenade deck and to the cabin where Martha lay pinned beneath the elevator shaft. Already exhausted, the two men somehow found the Herculean strength to drag the jack up the sloping, wet deck, tearing nearly every muscle and sinew in the process, only to be faced with getting the jack to the bottom of the stairs. Undaunted, they muscled the jack down the steps, pausing for breaths, until arriving on the 30-degree inclined floor of the cabin. Peterson and Rovelli attempted to lift the elevator shaft, which he assessed, had broken Martha’s back and legs. “Hang on, Marty!” he said aloud, pumping the jack and finally moving the imposing wreckage. Martha’s face, ashen except for the blood hemorrhaging from her mouth, seemed to quietly drift to sleep—but not until she could muster her last words: “Oh, darling, I think I’m going.” Dr. Peterson knelt next to his wife’s body and performed the routine but painful ritual of checking for her pulse and heartbeat. Numbed by the shock of every event leading to this tragic, final bow, he finally succumbed, muttering simply, “Marty’s dead”—a look of disbelief and torment etched across his face.”
Chapters include historical reportage. This excerpt was made by ABC anchor, Edward P. Morgan …
The daughter of this reporter, Linda Morgan, accounted for one of the incidents of the tragedy which some would classify as a miracle. Sleeping in a stateroom on the starboard side of the Andrea Doria which bore the full brunt of the Stockholm’s crash, she was officially reported as killed. Instead, she was catapulted apparently onto the bow of the Stockholm, where a crewman found her alive in the wreckage. She was among the litter cases brought to New York today, not in critical condition …
Within the space of 24 hours this reporter has been pushed down the elevator shaft to the subbasement of despair and raised again to the heights of incredible joy, washed, one suspects, with slightly extravagant rivulets of some heavenly champagne.
Last night, as far as the world at large was concerned, a girl, age 14 … nationality American, named Linda Morgan, was dead. She happens to be this reporter’s daughter. She had been killed, by the incontrovertible evidence of an eyewitness … But Linda is NOT dead.
Testimony from officers who were standing on the Andrea Doria bridge …
“She’s bearing down on us,” I shout. “She’s coming right at us!” But the Master had already appraised the situation: too late to swing to starboard. Collision was by now inevitable.
We try to escape: “Hard to port,” I hear the Master command. We signal our turn with the ship’s whistles. Franchini asks, “Captain, what about the engines?”
“No. Let them be! We need all the speed we’ve got now!” the Master replies.
The Stockholm is, by now, coming full at us, right into us, without a signal. The Andrea Doria is beginning to respond to the helm, but it’s too late! Little more than a minute had passed, yet it seemed an eternity. The Stockholm rammed us right under the bridge, crushing more than 20 meters of the reinforced bow into our hull. She slid along the full length of our starboard side.
Maritime scientists share details tested by nautical science. The collision is reconstructed by computer simulation, which offers irrefutable evidence …
“Captain Calamai, realizing that he had no time to turn right (it was calculated later that he would have needed eleven more seconds to clear the other bow), made a permissible decision to turn left
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. A right turn would most likely have split the Stockholm in half, since the Andrea Doria was twice the size of the Stockholm.”
~Naval architect Francesco Scotto.”