apropos of nothing

in 1973, our family's fishing boat broke. the bow broke off after crashing down in the trough of a wave. we were returning from a day trip to the Dry Tortugas when a storm came up. the short story is that we spent 24 hours in the ocean on our overturned hull, no land in sight, constantly stormy skies/waters . . . i saw mirages (so real) . . . all the drama . . .


recently i was looking for old accounts of the event because i had been watching Open Water and because memories of this kind often emerge into consciousness, uninvited, and i'm pretty sure no one in our family has a file containing all the juicy clippings. i found one that stays with me because our little story is found on the same page as a lot of info about Nixon, his illness, watergate . . . one headline reads: ". . . has restless night." ha.

i'm not sure what to make of being marked (in time) in this way.

here is some of the text (unformatted; i had to purchase the papers from a newspaper archive and can't figure out how to/if i can post the formatted text, but i figure the story is mine, so):


DIMOUT THREAT
IN LOS ANGELES
Story on Page A-2
PXESS-TELEGRAM HOME EDITION
LONG BEACH, CALIF., FRI., JULY 13, 1973
Classified HE 2-5959 Phone HE 5-1161 $4 PAGES 10 CENTS
Nixon in - pneumonia

sea ordeal
KEY WEST, Fla. (UPI)
— A family of 10, including
six children, clung to
an overturned boat for
more than 24 hours in
rough seas and torrential
rains before being rescued
by a pleasure boat.
"It was a miracle, a
plain absolute miracle
that we all survived,"
Gerald Surfus, 38, a Sarasota
attorney said Thursday
from his hospital bed.
He said his family had
left Key West Tuesday
morning aboard the 26-
foot boat he had recently
purchased for $41,000.
They planned to return by
nightfall after a trip to the
Dry Tortugas Islands 70
miles to the west.
ON BOARD the boat
were Surfus; his father,
Clifton Surfus, 61; mother,
Frances, 59; wife,
Mary, 41; and the six
girls: Emily, 4; Daphne,
6; Amy, 8; Bonnie, 10;
Carrie, 12; and Dawn, 17.
Surfus said they ran
into rough weather on the
way back to Key West
Tuesday afternoon.
"We hit maybe a three
or four foot wave and the
bow just broke right off,"
Surfus said. "In 90 seconds,
we were overturned
and in the water."
(Turn to Back Pg., Col. 4)


. . . it was a big deal. Dad was on To Tell the Truth and also on Tom Synder's late night show (was it called Tomorrow?). We were in The Enquirer (and the story was all true!)

anyhow. i've been thinking about it. it pops up now and then, like other past trauma.

my father's comments about a "miracle" are touching and ironically funny to me, as he has long struggles w/ concepts of God but won't go so far as to call himself an aetheist. John D. McDonald, a family friend, had attempted to write a book about the whole "ordeal," as everyone was calling it. Dad taped interviews w/ all of us. I remember listening to them a few years ago and hearing my 10 year-old voice tell my Dad -- when he asked if i had prayed -- "don't you remember?" and he said "no," and then i heard myself recreate the scene where we all sang "kumbaya" -- and, listening to the scratchy tapes, i heard myself singing it (a serious freak out). Mr. McDonald eventually returned to my father something like 9-11 pages, apologizing for his inability to write the book; he was too close. it was too much.

okay i'm over it. for now. again.

anyhow.

Comments

John said…
Wow, that's an amazing story.
i'm not sure why i felt compelled to write about it here. back then, i tried to write about it in a blue notebook w/ fat lines. i thought it could get my on Carson (it was always so cute when kids were on). poor motivation, i now see. i have a little essay that may come out soon, and in it i talk a bit about all of this.

thanks for writing :)
chris said…
that's a pretty great story. obviously it sucked to have experienced 24 hours adrift with all those unknowns, but, damn, what a cool story!
CHILD LOST AT SEE SAVES FAMILY WITH HER OPTIMISM!

you'll have to tell us when and where that "lttle piece" comes out so i can read more...
ha. i have to laugh. first, i was not singing *alone*. my sisters were singing too, maybe even my Aunt Dawn, who was 19 at the time. Emily was 3, so she didn't know what was going on (and was i need of revival when they were picked up by a man and his wife, who happened to be a nurse). poor Em just spent most of the night shrieking in fear at the phosphorous that would wash up on the hull w/ the waves (she still has nightmares about a Green Glowing Monster).

actually, i did think i'd save the family, but not from singing. we drifted by a channel marker at some point in the night, and in my brain, it was really some sort of radio station. it didn't seem that far away, so i asked my Dad to let me swim to it to radio for help. obviously, he did not take to the idea. i would surely have drifted away (the waters were pretty stormy). and there was no radio, but somehow that blinking light made me believe that there was (my little kid's sense of technology. ha.)

thanks for writing :)