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Telling the rest of the story

One of the greatest compliments you can pay a man is to tell a story he once told. I shall do that today. The Californian set sail from London, England on the fifth of April 1912, on its way to Boston, under the direction of Captain Stanley Lord. On the 14th, shortly before 11 p.m., the ship calls to alert a neighboring ship with which it had made earlier contact that it is stopping for the night. They can see its lights not far in the distance.

That message never goes through because the radio operator on that ship is busy taking incoming messages for its large crew of celebrating passengers. So the Californian’s operator turns off the radio and goes to bed at 11:30 p.m. Still, on deck, the officers of the Californian continue to make contact by Morse lamp with the distant ship, but there is no response.

It’s now 2:45 a.m., and Second Officer Herbert Stone sees a white flash appear in the direction of the ship, then five more flashes – rockets, brilliant flares into the night sky, a beautiful light show in the distance. Officer Stone, puzzled, turns to apprentice Gibson who is on watch with him on the bridge and said, “A ship isn’t going to fire rockets at sea for nothing!” he says, “Look at her now. Her lights look a little odd.”

But by 2 a.m., their neighboring friend appears to be leaving the area, and all is quiet. At 4:30 a.m. – when Captain Lord awakes – the two men alert the captain regarding that brilliant light show in the distance. Captain Lord thinks the scene is odd, too, so he sends men to awake radio operator Cyril Evans. An hour later – 5:30 a.m. – the night’s news comes across the wire. As Mr. Stone and Mr. Gibson watched the light show in the distance during the night, the Titantic sank. Just six miles away.

The Californian had radioed to warn the Titantic that night at 7:30 p.m. that they had spotted three huge icebergs in the area.  But the Titantic ignored the warning. And when the Titantic sent its radio pleas out during the night, the Californian’s radio operator slept. Now, you know the rest of the story.

You should know, too, that I heard one of the world’s greatest storytellers share his version of that story in his special, unique way many years ago.  This Friday morning’s tribute is to the man who left us “story-less” in 2009: Mr. Paul Harvey, one of the world’s great storytellers.

Steve Bowen is a former Granger who lives in Red Oak, Texas.