“The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy”
I think we have all heard the Gordon Lightfoot song,
The AP is remembering it 40 years after the day.
I was blessed to hang out on a usenet group (alt Callahans) where I made the acquaintance of Pat Kight who was a cub reporter that lived in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan.
Her job was to hang out with the families as they waited for news. Her comments stay with me still and I would like to share them with you all. Her on line handle at the time was Jezebel.
Jez closes her eyes. "Never let anyone tell you reporters don't get involved in their stories ... or that they don't care about them. We cared passionately about that ship and its men. We*knew* them - or men like them. You don't live in a small Great Lakes town without knowing guys who make their living on the freighters ... or their children and wives. The Lake, its shipping, its weather - they're all woven in so closely to life in that part of the country that they become part of you, whether you've ever set foot on a freighter or not.
"They sent me down to the shipping company offices, to a big, cold warehouse near the surging water, the place where the supply boats usually put out to restock the freighters with food and mail and other necessaries. That night ... and for days to follow ... it became something like a church, or a hospital waiting room, as women and children and men whose loved ones were on the Fitz began arriving, by ones and twos, hoping for some word that the ship was safe.
"Not exactly the kind of situation where a person can walk in, ask the typical stupid newspaper question (`so, how do you *feel*?') and leave. I knew some of these people. I wound up holding hands and making coffee and chain-smoking in the parking lot, almost as anxious as those who had an honest stake in the outcome ... and at the same time feeling somehow like a vulture, with my little notebook at the ready just in case news came in...
"It was also the night - the series of nights - when I began to understand the kind of reporter I *didn't* want to be ... when I decided the work wasn't worth doing if it couldn't be done with compassion, and that the detachment and `objectivity' most reporters are taught to espouse are really kind of a load of crap..."
Someone starts to object - after all, aren't reporters *supposed* to be objective? - and the Spinster, no longer in the business, shakes her head. "You try looking into the eyes of a 24-year-old woman who's just been told that her husband is dead at the bottom of an icy, treacherous lake ... that she'll never even get his body back ... and try remaining detached. Me, I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried with her..."
To read the whole post,
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters