The Other “Blue Eyes” – A Brief Tribute to Paul Newman

SimplyfreshdinnersDOTcom

This coming Friday will mark the sixth anniversary of the death of Paul Newman, a multi-talented 20th-century gem with a wonderful presence and a sparkling sense of humor.  I can’t think about him without smiling.

A World War II navy veteran, race car driver, entrepreneurial gastronomer, philanthropist, political activist, father of six children, and devoted family man, Newman might be best known to today’s younger generations as the co-founder of the Newman’s Own line of food products.

He was a director, a producer (earning a Best Picture Oscar nomination for Rachel, Rachel in 1968), a stage actor, and a celluloid icon.

During his prime acting years, Newman was a noted heartthrob, but he was not ‘just another pretty face.’  He was a highly skilled and subtle performer who excelled at portraying complex characters and social outsiders.  He was nominated for acting Oscars nine times, winning only once, for The Color of Money (1986).

As was arguably the case for film stars Cary Grant,

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Tyrone Power,

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Peter O’Toole,

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and Elizabeth Taylor,

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Newman was underrated as an actor because of his stunning good looks.

Newman

A film enthusiast wishing to undertake a Paul Newman mini-course would find few duds among his 64 screen performances.  One can hardly go wrong in choosing to view any of his major films.  I would especially recommend:

Hud (1963)
As the crass and Machiavellian son of a straight-arrow rancher (Melvyn Douglas), Newman’s Hud Bannon stages a power struggle with his father while attempting to seduce his father’s world-weary housekeeper, Alma (Patricia Neal).

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The Hustler (1961)
Two-bit pool hustler Eddie Felsen (Newman) finds himself in over his head when he tries to move up to the big leagues.

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Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Caught robbing parking meters and sentenced to hard labor on a Florida chain gang, Korean War veteran Luke Jackson (Newman) refuses to allow prison authorities to break his spirit.

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The Sting (1973)
In this nearly perfect and highly entertaining romp of a film, Newman’s washed-up grifter Henry Gondorff shepherds young con man Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) through a scheme to exact revenge on crime boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).  Ya follah?

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Shortly after Newman’s death, I heard a wonderful story about him.  Although the account may or may not be apocryphal, I find it plausible, in part because three of my acquaintances who happened to cross paths with Newman in the 1970s spoke enthusiastically of his personal warmth and courtesy.  (For an entertaining discussion of other serendipitous encounters with celebrities, please see my blog post of 29 July 2014, “Close Encounters of No Kind in Particular.”)

A middle-aged woman walked into a small-town New England ice cream parlor, planning to treat herself to a double-dip chocolate cone.  She was surprised and flummoxed to see that the only other customer in the restaurant was Paul Newman.  Stunned by the beauty and warmth of his legendary blue eyes, she blushed to the roots of her hair and found it difficult to think or speak.  She pulled herself together, turned resolutely to the clerk, and placed her order.  While waiting for her cone, she berated herself for her schoolgirl reaction to seeing the handsome star in person.

When her ice cream cone was ready, the woman handed a few bills to the clerk and accepted the change he offered in return.  Still embarrassed by her lapse of self-control, the woman strode out of the store without a glance in Newman’s direction.

Upon reaching her car, she was shocked to find that, although she still gripped her change in her right hand, the double-dip ice cream cone was nowhere to be seen.  Fearing she had left the cone in the store, the woman rushed back inside to find neither the clerk nor the ice cream cone at the counter.

Increasingly perplexed, she turned to look at Newman.  With a friendly smile, he said, “It’s in your purse.”

Quote for Today

“After what happened to Luther, I don’t think I can get more than two, three hundred guys. ” – Henry Gondorff, The Sting (1973).

How to Break the Ice? Make a Game of It.

OnTheKennebecIII (Ice Jam by gothictile.com)

Family relationships can be minefields whose navigation requires courage and careful thought.

What does one say to a sibling, or a parent, or a child, whom one has not seen for many months, or even years – especially if the relationship’s history reads like a battle diary?

SalmonriveverDotCom (Photo from salmonriver.com.)

Several years ago my family of origin was in crisis.  Misperceptions and deeply-rooted resentments, reflexive to some of the principals while opaque to others, had nearly destroyed the family unit.  Trust, honest communication, and good will were in short supply.

To address the situation, the five of us – who at that time were spread over seven thousand miles – agreed to convene at my mother’s house for a long weekend in February.

Realistically apprehensive about what might transpire at the meeting, I mulled over how to approach the weekend and how to ensure that we said what we needed to say while maximizing the chances of constructive solutions.  The meeting needed an organizing instrument that would accomplish three goals: (1) to help each participant to organize his or her thoughts about our family system in advance; (2) to break the ice, i.e., lay the groundwork for honest and straightforward communication; and (3) to apply a congenial structure to a discussion which otherwise would surely be fraught with difficulty and might result in even further estrangement.

I remembered that some of us had had great fun with the game of Balderdash, a riotously funny romp whose goal is to guess which players have authored humorous movie plots, word definitions, book titles, etc.

For our family meeting, I was inspired to create a game that blended Balderdash, the board game Therapy, and The Book of Questions.  The new game would center upon guessing the authorship of answers to questions – some light-hearted and meant to teach us about each other, and others, more serious, designed to stimulate thought and conversation about what was really going on in our family.

I created a list of 36 questions, formatted them in Excel with space for answers and authors’ initials, converted the document to a PDF (linked here), and emailed the package to my relatives a few weeks in advance.

Template

Each participant filled out his or her answers on paper, initialed each, used scissors to separate the answers one from another, and brought the answers to our reunion.

The first hours of our meeting, before we played the game, were stiff but well-mannered.  I think it helped ease tension that we all knew that our first group project would center on the 36 questions.  When the five of us sat down to play after a sumptuous, home-cooked brunch, we were all pleased to find the experience to be enlightening, memorable, and genuinely fun.

Here are some examples of the lighter questions.

  • What is one thing that almost no one knows about you?
  • What three adjectives do you hope will accurately describe you in five years?
  • What three adjectives describe you not at all?
  • Write the first draft of your epitaph.
  • What is your favorite topographical feature?
  • Who in this group would be most likely to enter a monastery or convent?
  • Who in this group would look worst with flaming red hair, and who would look best?
  • Name something you have always wanted to do but haven’t done yet.
  • If you could wave a magic wand and change careers, what would you most like to do?
  • Write the first line of the following song: “If Only You Knew.”

Here are the serious questions I wrote for the game.

  • In abstract terms, what do you want from the family members who will gather this weekend?
  • What three concrete goals would you most like to achieve through the this meeting?
  • If you could communicate only one message to the family in February, what would you like that message to be?
  • What are your three greatest concerns about the weekend’s meeting?
  • What role would you like to have in the family one year from now?
  • What personal changes do you think you might need to make in order to improve our family dynamics?
  • In general, what behavior(s) would you like to see more of in members of this family group?
  • What do you think are the two most formidable obstacles to healthy family relationships in the future?

To begin play, one person (the Reader) collected all five answers to Question 1, stated the question, and then read all of the answers aloud in random order.  Each of the other players, armed with a notepad, guessed the author of each of the five answers and wrote those guesses down.  The Reader then announced the answers’ authors.  Players received one point for each correct guess, with a maximum of five points per turn.  The Reader recorded the scores on a scorepad.  The job of Reader/scorekeeper progressed around the group clockwise.

The game served as a valuable tool, helping us to organize our thoughts and identify our feelings, offering a forum in which each of us might raise concerns safely, and providing a metric whereby each of us could see how well he or she did – or did not – really know each of the others.

The game was so engrossing, eye-opening, and downright fun the first time through that we decided we’d play it again when next we met four months later.  For the second round, each of us contributed questions.  It happened that none of the questions was serious.

With family holidays looming over the horizon, I wanted to offer this ice breaker to others who might be anticipating difficult reunions.  The game provided my family a safe, structured, and straightforward forum for sharing thoughts, feelings, and concerns, becoming better acquainted, and having fun together.

(The game works best if every family member participates with enthusiasm and honesty and, to the greatest extent possible, as an equal member of the group.)

Quote for Today

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” ― Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) in Anna Karenina

We’ll Never See September 10th Again.

Towers The Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.

Thursday marks the 13th anniversary of the Islamist terrorist attacks that took the lives of 2,977 men, women, and children and at least 11 unborn babies in Manhattan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  Currently, more than 19,000 first responders are suffering from illnesses contracted during rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Center site, and more than 1,400 first-responders have died since 2001.

Every year at the time of the 9/11 anniversary some pop-culture voices – not very loud or prominent, perhaps, but persistent – urge us to “move on” from our grief over the attacks.  I don’t know how that would be possible unless the victims, the planes, and the buildings were miraculously restored to us.  We cannot “move on” from 9/11 any more than we can “move on” from the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the shots fired at Ft. Sumter, or the October Revolution, each of which altered the course of history.

We certainly cannot return to the sleepwalking, innocent, 1990s mindset that I once heard described as, “September 10th.”

My final hours of “September 10th” unfolded in a frenetic whirlwind of professional activity.  At the time I was working for a Madison, Wisconsin, software company that annually welcomes its customers to a four-day User Group Meeting in September.  On the Tuesday every year is the General Session, an elaborate dog-and-pony show at which attendance by all employees is mandatory.  General Session day is the only day of the year on which none of the company’s employees is traveling, which fact turned out to be fortuitous in 2001.

My experience of the events of September 11, 2001, was framed and defined by the company’s idiosyncratic culture.  The firm typically hires people in their 20s – often straight out of college – and works them to exhaustion in a cult-like environment revolving around the company’s genius founder and chief visionary (I’ll call her Judy) who runs the organization with a capricious iron fist.

Having worked in Judy’s field for 15 years, I can say that her company makes outstanding software – probably the best on the market – but treats its employees like children.

The 2001 User Group Meeting had attracted a record number of customers from across the country.  Judy issued a directive that employees were not to drive themselves downtown to the General Session’s site at the Civic Center and that they were instead to ride from the company’s headquarters several miles away on company-provided buses.  Dutifully (sheep-like?), I drove to company headquarters, parked my car, and boarded the bus at about 7 a.m. CDT on September 11, having already stopped at both a dry cleaner’s to pick up my business suit and my office to change clothes.  My day was off to a busy start.

At the Civic Center, I learned from my colleagues that because of the strong customer turnout, we employees had been barred from occupying our customary seats in the orchestra section.  As we milled about and chatted, yelling to be heard in the deafeningly crush outside the mezzanine doors, unbeknownst to any of us an airplane far away in New York slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

We were in our seats for the beginning of the program at 8 a.m. CDT, 15 minutes after the first plane’s impact.  On an impulse (and, subsequently, to my great chagrin), I turned off my cell phone.

The General Session unfolded with a blend of glitz and technical near-perfection within our bubble of naivete.  I believe the theme of that year’s User Group Meeting was related to ancient Rome, so an employee dressed in a toga issued a welcome to open the program.  From there we saw a slick video promoting the company’s newest products, a speech about future technology by the company’s vice president, and (if memory serves) an entertainment segment involving a juggler.  Two or three times cell phones rang in the dark vastness of the customers’ seating area.

Judy made a speech too during the session’s two-plus hours.  Word had passed among the employees that we were all to applaud when Judy made a specific comment about recruitment.  Clapping like a trained seal, and feeling every bit the part, I decided never again to attend a General Session (which promise I have kept).

My first sense that something was amiss came during the “integrated demo,” a highlight of the General Session, during which an army of highly trained sales staff followed a script to demonstrate all of the company’s products’ operating in concert.

What was strange that day was that one of the demo staff made a mistake.  She stumbled over her words and got lost in the script in a manner completely atypical of the highly rehearsed General Session.

Within 90 seconds she was summoned to the stage-left wings, from which Judy and the other General Session presenters emerged as a group.  At the last second, Judy shoved the microphone she was holding into the hands of one her senior staff.  Surprised, but able to roll with the punch, he cleared his throat.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have some truly terrible news to report to you.  America has been attacked this morning by terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  Both towers of the World Trade Center have collapsed.”

Twilight Zone moment.

Immediately the 30-foot-high screen at the center of the stage showed lower Manhattan with billows of smoke where the twin towers should have been, accompanied by commentary from ABC news anchor Peter Jennings.  It was 10:30 a.m. CDT, nearly two hours after the first plane’s impact.

At that point the General Session was over.  Judy had made sure that the assembled group had seen the video, the future technology speech, her speech, and a specific portion of the integrated demo before letting the rest of us in on the horrific and historic events unfolding around the country.

I later heard that all of the General Session’s staff had been glued to a TV backstage.  The excuse offered for Judy’s failure to inform the audience earlier was that there had been trouble setting up a TV feed into the auditorium.

(This was Madison, Wisconsin, in 2001 – not Nameless, Tennessee, in 1951.  The guys assembled backstage were computer technicians who wrangled cables for a living.  The excuse offered for Judy makes no sense at all.)

Stunned, I watched the screen for two or three minutes before turning on my phone and calling home.

The official word was that those of us without afternoon obligations at the User Group Meeting would be permitted to leave; I would have done so anyway.  Without a car (since I had obeyed Judy’s busing directive like a good little soldier) I set off in my business pumps on the two-mile hike to the University of Wisconsin campus, where I hoped taxis might be found.  I met up with two colleagues en route.  We shared a cab back to company headquarters.  By noon, I was finally home and able to see on television the devastation in lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon, and in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but I had been prevented from witnessing any of the morning’s events in real time.

I cannot forgive Judy for deliberately withholding critical information on that day.

I remember from the days and weeks that followed wanting desperately to know what had happened.  Eventually there would be books, films, and articles offering first-person testimonials.  When those became available I read and watched voraciously.

Along the way I found some wonderful resources.  I read Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back, Jere Longman’s skillful retelling of the saga of United 93; Report from Ground Zero by Dennis Smith, a compilation of first-person accounts from firefighters and other first-responders who went into the towers on September 11th or worked on the site afterward; Portraits: 9/11/01: The Collected “Portraits of Grief” from The New York Times, the wrenching collection of victims’ New York Times’ obituaries, which drives home the point that quite a few pet dogs were grief-stricken after 9/11 too; and 102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, a minute-by-minute review of events in the towers from the first impact through second collapse, by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn.  Equally informative is 9/11, a stunning film by Jules and Gideon Naudet, who happened to be working on a documentary at a lower-Manhattan fire station on the day of the attacks.  For sheer beauty and depth of feeling, I recommend PBS’s Frontline: Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero

Learning as much as possible about 9/11 was my first means of coping with the horror. This helped, except on the anniversaries.  In 2002, I wished we could just jump directly from September 10th to September 12th and thereby avoid the inevitably painful remembrances.  The 2003 anniversary was similarly agonizing.  To my surprise – since much of life had acquired a normalcy of sorts – so was the anniversary in 2004.

One evening in November of 2004, I started formulating a story about a young man who struggles to come to terms with his best friend’s death on 9/11.  “Gee, it would be great if someone wrote a screenplay about that,” soon became, “Maybe I should write that screenplay.”  So I did.  It was a fascinating experience.  Weaving into the framework of my story a beautiful anecdote I had read in late 2002 about a Ground Zero ironworker who had overcome PTSD, I wrote the middle of the play first.  I began each writing session with the intention of moving the story from A to B and then allowed the characters to determine how that might come about.

By mid-2005, I had completed work on my feature-length screenplay, Into the Arms of Angels.  Here is its logline (or TV Guide-style summary):

Devastated by the death of his closest friend five years earlier in the Twin Tower terrorist attacks, an emotionally crippled Wisconsin dairyman travels to New York City in September of 2006 and through intense suffering reaches an epiphany of healing and insight.

Towers_of_Light_2 The Tower of Lights memorial in lower Manhattan. (Photo: Restlus.com)

Writing helped me come to terms with the horrors of 9/11.  After completing my play, I found the anniversaries less painful.

 

Update: In 2016, I serialized Into the Arms of Angels in 14 parts.  Please click here to read part 1.  Each chapter includes a link to its successor.

I hope you enjoy the play.

Quote for Today

“The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear.” – former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

 

 

 

 

 

It Really *Was* Anybody’s Game! (Postscript to Part III of My U.S Open Preview)

Before the first tennis ball was struck at the U.S. Open, in a post entitled “It’s Anybody’s Game,” I profiled ten contenders for this year’s men’s singles title.

None of those ten men has managed to reach the tournament’s final, which will take place on Monday evening.  Instead, the final will feature two up-and-comers who today played, and won, the first Grand Slam semifinal matches of their careers.

The 2014 U.S. Open final will be the first since the 2005 Australian Open to feature none of tennis’ Big Four (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray).

This year’s two finalists are:

Kei Nishikori
KN_0906_Joy  Photo by Ella Ling.

Nationality: Japan
Age: 24
Height: 5’10”
Current Ranking: 11

Nishikori has been in spectacular form in New York.  In consecutive matches, he defeated the tournament’s 5 seed (Milos Raonic) in a five-setter that ended at 2:26 a.m., the 3 seed (Stan Wawrinka) in five sets, and the 1 seed (Novak Djokovic) in 4 sets.

Nishikori outfought Djokovic today in hot, humid conditions with terrific movement and powerful, accurate shots.

Nishikori is the first Japanese man to make the U.S. Open semifinals since 1918, and he is the first Japanese man ever to reach a Grand Slam final.

Marin Cilic
MC_0906_Yay

Nationality: Croatia
Age: 25
Height: 6’6″
Ranking: 16

Working with a new coach this year (2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic), Cilic has striven to improve his serve, his movement, and his decision-making.  All of his labors bore fruit today when, in what he described as, “the best performance of my career,” he blew Roger Federer off the court in straight sets.

Cilic demonstrated that he has nerves of steel when he stepped to the line to serve for the match, and for a spot in his first-ever Grand Slam final, and served thus: ace, ace, ace, three-shot winning rally.

Nishikori and Cilic have wildly contrasting styles. Nishikori pairs great movement with compact, efficient shots, while Cilic offers both a powerful serve and a strong backcourt game.

The final, which is schedule for 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, should be a fascinating and entertaining match.

Having watched both of today’s semifinals, I hesitate to pick a favorite for the final, though if pressed I’d be inclined to go with Cilic.

 

I Was There: Remembering the MS Estonia Twenty Years Later

MS Silja Symphony, Baltic Sea, 28 September 1994

The announcements started at 6 a.m.  First in Swedish.  Then in Finnish.  Then in English.

“Ladies and gentlemen: we have been asked by the government of Estonia to take part in a rescue operation.  We will resume our journey after the rescue operation has completed.”

Having passed the stormy late-September night in a haze of Dramamine offered gratis by my pragmatic ferry line, I assumed that such rescue operations must be routine and drifted back to sleep.

The night’s voyage en route from Stockholm to Helsinki had been anything but restful.  My cabin had heaved and tossed with the heavy seas.  Periodically the engines had shuddered like jackhammers.  The ship had lurched through several sharp turns.  More than once the corridor had echoed with urgent cries and rapid footsteps.  (Was this normal for a stormy night in the Baltic? I didn’t know.)

The mysterious and unsettling announcement was repeated every 15 minutes.  At about 0830, showered and dressed, having finally overcome my drowsiness, I ventured out of my cabin in search of information.  Finding news in English was a challenge; finally, from two Americans in the corridor came word of calamity: another passenger ferry had sunk in the stormy night, and our ship was assisting in the rescue of survivors.

Passing through the ship’s atrium on my way to breakfast I came upon a throng of passengers in rapt attention to a Scandinavian news broadcast on an overhead TV set.  I was unable to learn anything about what was going on without understanding the language, but the collective horror of the assembled group was palpable.

Later in the morning I climbed to the ferry’s upper deck.  The view presented a maritime version of an airport’s holding pattern.  Against a slate-gray stormy sky one could see a flock of ships – two other passenger ferries and at least three cargo ships – circling slowly, with a helicopter occasionally passing among them.  Dotting the water were a few empty inflatable lifeboats and life vests.

We did not know it then, but our ferry had been the third to arrive at the disaster scene, at about 0230.  We stayed with the rescue operation until early afternoon.  The atmosphere onboard was somber and  surreal.  None of the grim-faced passengers raised any complaint as the cafeteria switched to paper plates and plastic flatware and began to ration food.

Eventually we resumed course to Helsinki, arriving nearly twelve hours late.

My return ferry from Helsinki was also delayed by 12 hours, because that vessel had been diverted to a shipyard in order to have its bow doors welded shut. Why, I didn’t know until later.

While I was in Helsinki and during the days I spent in Stockholm and Copenhagen afterwards, I never knew exactly what had transpired in the middle of the Baltic Sea.  The sensation of having been so close to disaster was a constant and unnerving companion during the remaining week or so of my Scandinavian stay.

It wasn’t until my flight home to California that I finally learned, from an article in a Newsweek magazine, about the terrible loss of life that had occurred during my eastbound ferry crossing.  Only when I arrived home in Berkeley did the full psychological weight of the experience bear down on me.  I suppose what I went through was a form of PTSD.  I would awaken in early morning darkness with nerves firing all over the inside my skull, I experienced an overwhelming sadness, and I felt compelled to tell absolutely everyone the story of my experiences.  That went on for two or three weeks.

Even today it is painful to retell the story, because the events of the early hours of September 28, 1994, are so starkly tragic.  (In fact, I can’t read this essay aloud without weeping.)

With 20 years’ hindsight, and with the help of post-incident investigative reports and Wikipedia, here is an account of that night.

Estonia The MS Estonia in 1993, from Wikipedia.

The Baltic Sea was rough, “normally bad” for late September according to one ferry captain, with 13 to 20 foot waves and moderate gale force (34 – 45 mph) winds.

In the complete darkness of 0100, the RORO (Roll-On Roll-Off) auto ferry MS Estonia was nearing the midpoint of its journey, having departed Tallinn, Estonia, at 1900 on the previous evening  and due to arrive in Stockholm, Sweden, at 0930.  On board were 989 people – 803 passengers and 186 crew – representing at least 17 nationalities.

The trouble started with a metallic bang originating near the bow of the ship.  Concerned about bow’s “visor” (which could be raised to expose a loading ramp when the ship was in port) the bridge crew checked indicator lights for the visor and ramp and found nothing amiss.

Bow_Visor_Wikipedia An open bow visor – photo from Wikipedia.

Elsewhere on the bridge, some distance away from the conning station, a surveillance monitor displayed real-time video of the inner cargo ramp.  Had the crew checked the monitor, they would have seen the auto deck taking on water.  Unbeknownst to anyone aboard the ship, the bow visor’s lower lock had broken in a manner undetectable via the ship’s sensors.  (Designed for use in coastal waters, the MS Estonia was not constructed to handle the battering of waves in the open sea.)  Over the ten minutes that followed, passengers and crew alike heard heavy metallic thumping sounds as the visor flapped up and down in the heavy seas.

At 0115, the visor broke free of the ship, leaving the bow completely open.  Immediately the ship listed 30 or 40 degrees to starboard.  Rapidly taking on water, the MS Estonia became unsteerable.

At 0120 the ship’s public address system broadcast a faint alarm message in Estonian.  At 0122 the crew broadcast a “Mayday” but failed to follow international conventions.

By 0130 the MS Estonia had tipped onto her side.  By 0150 she had sunk into the sea and disappeared from other ships’ radar.

Of the 989 people who had boarded the MS Estonia in Tallinn, 852 men, women, and children died in the Baltic’s icy waters.

The commission that investigated the sinking estimated that before the ship sank 310 people had climbed up to the outer decks, and 160 had managed to board the lifeboats.  Survivors described the evacuation as an every-man-for-himself free-for-all that left elderly passengers crying in the staircases because they were unable to climb to the outer decks.  Only seven of the survivors were over the age of 55, and none was under the age of 12.

Most who escaped the sinking ship were underdressed for the 52 degree water and the freezing air.  Only 138 people were rescued alive, and one of those later died in the hospital.

Among the 852 who lost their lives on that icy morning were 501 Swedes, 285 Estonians, 17 Latvians, 11 Russians, 10 Germans, 10 Finns, 18 people representing 11 other nationalities.

To affect the U.S. population as heavily as the MS Estonia’s sinking hit Sweden, a disaster would need to take the lives of 17,000 Americans.  To replicate the sinking’s effect upon Estonia, an incident would need to take the lives of 58,000 Americans.

Est_Memorial The Estonia Memorial in Stockholm.

The sinking of the MS Estonia was the worst maritime disaster to have occurred in the Baltic Sea during peacetime.  Like the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the MS Estonia disaster brought about changes to maritime regulations and safety precautions.  Reading the disaster’s Wikipedia page evokes a reading of A Night to Remember.  As is invariably my experience when I contemplate the tragic saga of the Titanic, there are several junctures in the story of the MS Estonia at which I wish for the ability to reach into the past, fix crucial details, and prevent the disaster.