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Voices of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Northlanders recall night of the shipwreck

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 6:07 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (CBS 3 Duluth) - In 1975, Candace McAvaney was nine months pregnant with her first child. But four days before she gave life, her father lost his own.

“After my daughter was born and they told me, it’s like how do you process that? I just had my first child, so we’re really happy about that then you hear you know the shocking ... my dad was on the Fitzgerald,” McAvaney said.

Candace’s father was on board the Edmund Fitzgerald when it sank in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975, killing all 29 crew members on board.

Both sides of her family decided to not inform Candace her father was on board the Fitzgerald that night until after her daughter was born.

“I still don’t think I fully processed it,” McAvaney said.

Bill Hansen was a reporter at KBJR 6 covering the Fitzgerald.

Hansen said the devastation of families is something he still thinks about every time November 10 rolls around.

“Seeing families and the deep, deep sadness at that point, sort of desperate hope they were hoping they’d find survivors in the water somewhere,” Hansen said, “Of course we know that didn’t happen,”.

Hansen and another reporter rented an airplane at 4 a.m that next morning to catch what was left of the wreck.

Hansen recalled life rafts, debris, and oil floating on the lake.

“Just thinking of what went through those men’s minds as that disaster unfolded is a really terrible, frightening way to end your life, so that struck me really hard,” Hansen said.

McAvaney lit the beacon at Split Rock Lighthouse’s ceremony Tuesday night and rang the bell in her father’s memory.

Both McAvaney and Hansen said the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” song by Gordon Lightfoot is a difficult one to listen to, always taking them back to that fateful day.

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