Tuesday, October 1, 2013

OT: The Wreck of the Andrea Doria (1956)

LIFE Magazine partial cover, August 6, 1956, 20 Cents

It's hard to explain how extraordinary this issue of LIFE Magazine was to me when I was not yet eight years old. The story of the wreck of the Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket blew me away, in part because there were children involved, and I strongly identified with them. I know I kept this issue of LIFE Magazine for many years after the disaster.

That most of the children  survived the sinking of the Andrea Doria was remarkable. But some of them did not survive. I was glad for the survivors -- like Linda Morgan and Dickie, Ruth Roman's son -- and I was heartbroken for those who were lost for there were so many children among the dead.

I was reminded of my childhood fascination -- and horror -- at the wreck of the Andrea Doria during our attendance at the New Mexico PBS Science Cafe on the topic of "Why Ships Sink."

Afterwards, we took in the Titanic artifact exhibit at the Natural History Museum, a very dimly lit exhibition of not a lot of things pulled up from the abyss where the pieces of the Titanic have rested and rusted and disintegrated since 1912.

Even though it was rather sparse, the exhibit was nevertheless moving. One reason was that each person attending was given a boarding pass with the name of one of the passengers on the Titanic and each of us was asked to find that person on the list of those who survived and those who were lost when the ship went down. This list was posted at the end of the exhibit. I found my passenger right off, among the first class survivors. While it was something of an emotional relief to find him among the survivors, the list of the dead was far, far greater than that of those who survived, and I found myself breathing hard at the sheer magnitude of the loss of life.

None of the speakers at the Science Cafe mentioned the sinking of the Andrea Doria, which  had been featured on an episode of "Secrets of the Dead," but I couldn't stop thinking about it then and since.

It made that much of an impression on me so many years ago. Just as the sinking of the Titanic left an indelible impression on an earlier generation, and the wreck of the Costa Concordia will no doubt leave an impression on the current one.

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