Ten years ago today, the ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald went down on Lake Superior. Few would know or remember it but for the haunting song by Gordon Lightfoot. But there’s more to the story than that great song.

Indeed, the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald is very much the story of the important role that the shipping traffic on the Great Lakes plays in our economy, and the risks that arise for thousands of sailors every day as they traverse waters that have claimed more than 6,000 ships.

But most of us just know the song. In a great AP story today:

The song remains a part of Lightfoot’s set list; he played it last summer at Detroit’s Fox Theater, where the crowd included Ruth Hudson, the mother of a deckhand from the Fitzgerald.

Hudson, who met backstage with Lightfoot, has become friendly with the singer over the years. The North Ridgefield, Ohio, resident said the song is therapeutic to the families of the crew.

“It’s kept the men and the memorial to the men alive,” said Hudson. “I think it’s been good for the families. They have felt comfort in it. I have talked to just about all of them, and I haven’t talked to anyone who didn’t like the song.”

Lightfoot declined to be interviewed for this story. But he told The Associated Press in 2000 that “Wreck” was “a song you can’t walk away from.”

A few years ago I saw a fascinating documentary made in 1995 about the Edmund Fitzgerald in which they sent the first deep-water divers to the wreck to survey the damage and to test theories behind the cause. The divers left a plaque and salvaged the ship’s bell, which they unveiled at a memorial service later that year. It was incredibly moving.

You owe it to yourself to learn more about the Edmund Fitzgerald. You won’t be sorry that you did.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum – Edmund Fitzgerald

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot (Song Lyrics)

Sailing Into History – Edmund Fitzgerald Remembered

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Educational Videos

NTSB Marine Accident Report – SS Edmund Fitzgerald

National Weather Service Marquette, MI Office – Edmund Fitzgerald History