8th November, 1999
Church bells toll to honor lost sailors
taken from www.detnews.com
By Madison J. Gray / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- Lynn Miller stood at the back of the Old Mariner's Church downtown and shed tears for sailors she never knew.
As she wiped tears from her face, bagpipes played a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, which followed a rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
It was the ore carrier, often referred to as "Queen of the Great Lakes," that sank in hurricane force winds on the night of Nov. 10, 1975, claiming the lives of all of her 29 hands. The church's bell chimed as many times for the lost crew while Miller and about 500 others sat silently during an annual ceremony at the church on Jefferson.
"For the last 24 years, I've followed this," said Miller, who arranged her visit with family in Michigan from Ocala, Fla., to coincide with the memorial. "I had listened to the music for a while and when I found out it was a true story, I became very interested.
"I didn't know the sailors, but that doesn't stop it from being a historical event."
The service brought people who had never sailed together with people who had served long marine careers on and off of the Great Lakes. Capt. Donald Erickson, who stood at the helm of the William Clay Ford for 25 years until his 1986 retirement, was part of the ceremony and hopes the Fitzgerald is never forgotten.
"This makes you remember that this can happen to any of us," said Erickson who took the Ford out on Lake Superior to find survivors of the Fitzgerald on the night it sank. "This brings out the lives of the sailors on that ship and other ships that have been lost."
The Rev. Richard Ingalls, church rector, has been conducting the ceremony since the accident. On the morning the sinking was confirmed, he came to the church and rang the bell one chime for each hand lost at sea. After that, he said, the community asked him to keep up the remembrance publicly.
Copyright 1999, The Detroit News