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Leslee LeRoux: Remembering those who go down to the sea in ships

Editor's Note: A version of this column first ran on Nov. 10, 1995, in the Superior Daily Telegram. It seems hard to believe that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in a violent storm on Lake Superior 25 years ago. Memories of the men lost still see...

Editor's Note: A version of this column first ran on Nov. 10, 1995, in the Superior Daily Telegram.
It seems hard to believe that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in a violent storm on Lake Superior 25 years ago. Memories of the men lost still seem too vivid for most Northlanders to accept that a quarter century has passed since 29 men and their great ship sank off White Fish Bay in a brutal November blast.
Some of us knew crew members who lost their lives on the Fitz. Others may have spoken over the years to agents or dock workers or suppliers who were the last people to see the crew alive as she set sail for Detroit after loading taconite at the Burlington Northern docks in Superior.
She sailed out into the big lake just as a November gale was brewing.
The ship met the storm head on, and lost. Minutes after her captain, Ernest McSorley, radioed "We are holding our own," the ship, and her crew, disappeared and sunk to their final resting place on the bottom of Lake Superior.
We who live in this waterfront city should spend a moment and remember these men and the price they paid for their calling.
We should remember their survivors who will face this anniversary with heavy hearts and woeful memories, memories that are painfully stirred every time a story is written or aired or repeated about their private tragedy that has become very public legend.
We should also give pause and think about the men and women who at this very moment are sailing on the Great Lakes. Some are sailing on boats similar in size and design to the Fitzgerald. All will face fierce storms before this shipping season ends. To earn their paychecks, these sailors will spend long, dark days and nights on icy decks battling high seas and cruel winds. They will sail through rough waters on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year's before these inland seas are wrestled quiet by fields of ice.
The Great Lakes demand a high price from those who sail upon them. The survivors of the Fitzgerald crew know this. The sailors out working tonight know this, as do their families, who spend tense hours at home when the winds howl across Superior, Michigan, Erie, Huron and Ontario.

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