Today is a special day in my household. Today’s date, November 10, has been marked on the calendar with big red letters reading “FITZ.” We started the morning by listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” and my seven- and five-year-old sons are eager to get home from school this evening so they can put on the Edmund Fitzgerald play they created. At some point today, we’ll read through the countless articles written about the Fitz (especially the great series from the Toledo Blade) and watch the video footage we’ve all seen many times before.
For those who aren’t aware, today marks the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald, November 10, 1975, a tragedy in Michigan history. Around the state and throughout the Great Lakes region, commemorations are being held to honor the 29 sailors who disappeared into Lake Superior. At the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point tonight at 7,
they’ll ring the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald 30 times, once for every man killed when the great ship went down and once more for all sailors lost at sea.
My family wasn’t personally touched by the tragedy. We lost no relatives the night the Fitz disappeared beneath the waves. However, we spend our summers along Lake Superior, in particular, along a section known as Michigan’s shipwreck coast. My sons have grown up not just hearing about the great ships traveling the Great Lakes, but they’ve seen them with their own eyes. They’ve walked along the beach and touched the bones of old ships washed onto the shore. They’ve been to the museum at Whitefish Point and studied the bell retrieved in 1995 from the Fitz. My seven-year-old son has studied the museum displays and read so many books he even argues with others about his theories about what caused the Fitz to sink.
Speaking of my seven-year-old, this year, when we asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween, he took no time answering. He wanted to be the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald. I shouldn’t have been surprised because he has a fascination with Great Lakes shipwrecks like the L.R. Doty, the Iosco, the Olive Jeanette, and others. It’s the loss of the Fitz, however, that has made history come alive for him in a way no textbook ever could.
Tonight, when we finish watching the play the boys have created, we’ll sit in front of the computer at 7 pm and watch the live stream of the Shipwreck Museum’s Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial on Fox32. We’ll mourn those lost on the Great Lakes, and we’ll ensure they will be remembered by a new generation.