Monday, April 05, 2010

You know, when the SS Eastland fell over on a calm day in the Chicago River it was just doing what it was supposed to, mostly, adding more lifeboats and reinforcing its deck to avoid repeating what had happened to the Titanic. If it has paused and thought about it, the boat might have realized that its center of gravity had changed, that it was feeling a little wobbly and slow to react, but somehow ships never really think about those sorts of things. It just readied itself for a party while inside of it everything went wrong.

Whole families were wiped out that day, laid out in makeshift morgues with no one to claim them. They all just readied themselves for parties, too, while around them everything went wrong. The boat was raised pretty quickly and made seaworthy again as a training gunship where it was useful for quite some time. The people, those who made it and those who didn't, all faded into obscurity just as quickly.

I wonder about the moment when the band stopped playing to abandon ship, when the only sounds left to hear were the snapping of lines and the creaking of decks and the stampeding of panicked passengers. When the boat finally shrugged its shoulders and settled sideways into the shallows and mud, tired from holding up all of those people and that concrete and those boats, and what it sounded like in the fractions of seconds between when the music ended and everything else flowed in.

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