The events described in the following sections occurred on July 25-30 1956. As you read through the events and the recollections please keep this in mind.
We are used to seeing the news "live, as it happens". Cameras and reporters everywhere, not only the professional ones, but amateurs as well. If it doesn't make the news, it makes the home video shows. 1956 was a slower paced time. Newspapers reported the bulk of the news to the population. Radio was rapidly gaining ground and television was still in a toddler stage and movie theaters showed news reels to its audiences.
Without all the fancy high tech gear, news gathering relied on eye witness reports. It is those reports that the following sections are drawn from. No one was watching the whole drama unfold and writing it down as it happened. It is all pieced together from the recollections of survivors and crew. As a result what you read may not be totally accurate. The time various events actually happened may vary, accounts of cowardice and heroism may be distorted due to panic and fear.
What we do know is that the people involved in this event witnessed heroism, death, destruction and panic. Many fought for their lives. Covered in oil and grease they climbed from the lower decks. Some were barely dressed, some not dressed at all. Others were on the upper decks and were not as frightened, they just waited for the rescue. Some struggled to return to their cabins to retrieve loved ones or lifejackets. A number of people died, never knowing what had happened. It was a night of terror and a night of miracles.
As the night wore on, it became a night of hope. Rescue ships were arriving to take the passengers off, some panicked and jumped overboard, some slid down ropes and makeshift steps. Families became separated from each other. Some claim the crew abandoned them, some say the crew were heroes. The crew and passengers of the rescue ships opened their arms and hearts to the survivors. Donating clothing and the use of their cabins.
As dawn approached and the last of the passengers were saved, news crews arrived by plane to witness, along with the passengers of the Stockholm the actual sinking of the Andrea Doria. It was a sad and moving event, like watching a young person that had been full of life die a slow and painful death.
When the rescue ships arrived in New York there was joy as families reunited and grief as families were told of their lost loved ones. Many returned to their homes and continued with their lives, the immigrants lost everything they owned and started their lives with nothing but the borrowed clothes on their back.
The events of that evening are now just a footnote in history. A subject of a few documentaries and books. The only time we are reminded of the sinking is when another diver loses his life trying to recover a piece of history.
I hope you will take the time to read and try to understand the events of that fateful night.
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