I’m always amazed at how big a story it is and how very, very little known it is.”
I really enjoyed your film. I had never heard this story and I’m surprised too because it was such a moving story. It was touching to see everyone telling their truth and their experience and the different people and places that have been affected by this event.
Terry Strauss: Thank you very much for your response because one of the things that amaze me, even though I’ve lived with this story for a long time, is when I step back I’m always amazed at what a huge story it is. How meaningful and how significant it was for the population of Lawn and St. Lawerence. Which is at this point fairly large, with generations after generations, both American and Canadian. I’m always amazed at how big a story it is and how very, very little known it is. They will tell you even in Newfoundland there are places where people just don’t know the story. It is remarkable to me considering the scale of the disaster and the scale of the heroism.
When did your father first share this story with you?
It’s funny, my sister and I were just talking about when our father told us. My sister is four years older than I am. She says it was in eighth grade, so I would’ve been nine. I knew my father was in the war, but I would guess that he probably didn’t talk about the shipwreck much. I read some of the letters he wrote while he was still in the Navy. They were constrained about details and information. My impression is that the story started being told after the book, Standing Into Danger, was published in 1979 by Cassie Brown from Newfoundland. I know that while writing the book, she reached out to a lot of the Americans, asking people to tell her their stories and what happened.
I do know in ’88 when I was shooting the reunion, which I was so fortunate to be there because it was the first time the rescuers and survivors saw each other after 46 years. They were together so briefly during the actual disaster. Traumatized on both sides, I would imagine that there wasn’t a lot of recollection prior about who they met, who did what, or the number of people involved. They never even told their wives, or their wives just found out a few years ago.
It was just as traumatic on the Newfoundland side. A tremendous tragedy happened on their shores. The fact that their response was so heroic risking their own lives to save the American sailors, the after-effects of that were equally heavy from the amount of death, the trauma, and people they couldn’t save. Even with all of the amazing humanity displayed and the number of lives they saved, you saw it in the film, no one talked about it.
“…with all of the amazing humanity displayed and the number of lives they saved…no one talked about it.”