Stories of tragedy and heroism at sea are compelling reads, and the story of Frank Quirk and his crewmen’s sacrifice on the Can Do is compelling without a doubt. Michael Tougias has written a riveting tale in Ten Hours Until Dawn, the Raynham Reads one, book, one community selection for 2018.
With dangerous winds and impossible seas created by blizzard conditions, any prudent man could have chosen to stay in harbor and keep safe, but Frank Quirk and his mates chose to put their lives in peril to rescue an oil tanker with a crew of 32 floundering in the high seas. It was February 6, 1978, and the New England coast was being pounded by Storm of the Century. Quirk understood the odds. He had even cautioned the Coast Guard station at Gloucester to think twice about sending rescue ships into the area, saying “You may get up there, but I don’t think you’re going to get back…” However, when the Coast Guard rescue ship gets put in just as terrifying of a position as the oil tanker, Quirk, the captain of the pilot boat Can Do, volunteers to help. The ensuing tragedy is almost inevitable. As Tougias’s subtitle indicates, Ten Hours Until Dawn is the true story of heroism and tragedy aboard the Can Do.
There has been much discussion lately about heroism. We have illustrations of both heroism and the lack thereof with two recent incidents – the hostage crisis in France, and the tragedy of the Parkland shooting. In France a young police officer volunteered to exchange himself for hostages and was subsequently killed. In the Parkland shootings, a security officer has been called into question for his failure to enter the building during the deadly rampage. What inspires an individual to self-sacrifice? What motivates an individual to do what is right instead of what is safe? Is altruism inherent in the human genome? Is it a trait that is hard-wired or is it a trait that develops in response to environment and nurturing? What inspired Frank Quirk and his men to make that fateful decision? These are a few of the questions to be discussed on Wednesday, April 11, at 1:00, when the community comes together to discuss Ten Hours Until Dawn. You are invited to join the discussion. If you haven’t read the book yet, there are copies available at the library.
On Sunday, April 15, at 2:00, we take a closer look at the blizzard conditions during February 1978, with a documentary film and shared memories.
The author, Michael Tougias, joins us later in the month for further discussion of the book and a slide lecture on the events of the Can Do. The presentation will be at the Community Center on Sunday, April 29 at 2:00 pm. Raynham Reads 2018 is a cooperative project of the Friends of the Raynham Library, the Raynham Cultural Council and the Raynham Public Library.