My writer friend Mike Cane posted this incredible true story on his blog today. It relates how he had three omens that something bad would happen to him as he set out for New York City this morning…
I Survived Today’s Staten Island Ferry Crash
I know that we should not believe in bad luck omens. It’s stupid to do so. But I’ve had too many weird things happen in my life to entirely discount them. Take that as you will, but keep reading.
So this morning I had to go into the city early from Staten Island.
I walked to the ferry terminal. And here is where the bad luck omens come in.
I happen to go to cross a street and look down and there’s a dime on the asphalt. This has happened to me about ten times over the past three years, suddenly coming across a dime like that. And the rest of the day usually has bad luck in it. I wasn’t going to pick up the dime, but I did. Because it turns out the bad luck doesn’t go away by not taking the dime. This is like some bizarre quantum effect — just seeing the dime invokes the bad luck. Or at least is a warning of it coming.
So I keep walking. At some point again, totally unplanned, I look down at the sidewalk, and there’s a dead bird. Just like the dime, this has happened several times to me the past few years. See dead bird, get bad luck.
I keep walking. And again, at one point, I look down, and there’s another dime! Three bad luck omens in a row! And, yes, I took the dime. At the very least, I figure if I’m hit up for change by one of the homeless at the terminal, I can give them the two dimes.
I get on the 6:30 ferry. Nothing happens to me during the trip. In fact, I catch a light nap. I’m not thinking at all about the bad luck because I figure I already know how that will manifest itself (and that part is none of your business). And everything is OK while I’m in the city.
Then I get a text to come back to Staten Island early. I could have gotten on the 9AM ferry, but I didn’t want to rush. The 9:30AM ferry would be fine.
And that’s what I get. The Barberi. Today known as The Ferry of Doom.
I try to nap on the ferry, but I can’t, I’m restless. I don’t think anything of this. I should have paid more attention!
The standard canned announcement comes over the loudspeaker that we’re approaching the dock. I open my eyes a few seconds later and notice that we’ve gotten to the Staten Island side very quickly. Usually that announcement happens too damned early. There’s still ten minutes or so until we dock. This time, we’re eerily closer.
I stand up and stretch and then I notice the wooden dock whizzing by me very fast.
And then one of the executive ferry staff — one of the staff who I believe is supposed to be driving the damned ferry, because he’s wearing a pressed white shirt — walks with speed through my area yelling “Brake! Brake! Brake!!”
I think I might have yelled to the people around me, “We’re too fast! We’re going to crash! Brace yourselves!!”
And as soon as that gets out of my mouth, two things hit my mind:
1) I’m on the left side of the ferry, in the front fifth. People died on the left side of a ferry several years ago during a crash.
2) Am I going to die on this ferry?
I don’t have time to sort out what to do, so I just try to brace myself against a seat that runs parallel to the front.
Just as that happens — BOOM!
We have zero slowing down. We had zero engines kicking into reverse. We went straight into the damned thing!
As soon as I saw I wasn’t going to die and wasn’t injured (I have a slightly sore neck, big deal!), I go to the front to see if other people are OK.
Shockingly, a couple who had been on the upper deck — the deck itself! — were uninjured. The guy’s pants showed he was probably knocked to the ground, but he’s otherwise OK.
There are several men who are sitting on the steps leading to the upper deck. They look shaken and later claim to be injured. But I saw no bruises or blood.
The worst one is this older Chinese lady. She was either at the top of or on the sloping ramp leading to the lower deck. She is flat down, diagonally, her feet higher than her head. But there is no blood. She says she has a head or a neck injury and can’t get up.
I look out the doors to the lower deck and it’s a full-out disaster. The big ground-level platform has been thrust inward and the connecting area at the rear of it has been driven skyward. Apparently, that’s where the ramp motors are and there’s smoke emanating from them. Not a big cloud or anything, but you can see a pall and smell it.
I then go back to my level and raise up a window to look out the side. The ferry is driven right into the concrete of the terminal!
They have totally destroyed a second dock of the terminal!
Now here is what really really pisses me off and calls for a deep investigation and justifies any lawsuits that are going to happen.
The ferry staff had time to warn us of a crash.
If I could see we were coming in fast after the canned announcement, they damned well could too. They might have had only twenty seconds leeway, but they could have at least told people, “We’re going to crash. Everyone lie down flat on the floor!”
We had none of that. We had zero warning. I’m not even sure the ferry officer in the white shirt was addressing us when he was yelling “Brake! Brake! Brake!” Everything happened so fast, I couldn’t tell if he was talking to us or yelling into a radio (which they are all supposed to have on their person).
Emergency firemen and cops arrived and maybe after fifteen minutes, they’d set up a metal ramp to get us onto the lower-level exit platform, which was now three-to-four feet above where it was meant to be, and a wooden ramp to get us onto ground-level. I saw one guy with a windbreaker that had “NYPD Detective” on it, talking to a passenger who’d gotten off the ferry. I don’t know if they wanted witness accounts or not. I stood watching for a few seconds and since no one said we should stick around to give a statement, and I saw other people just walking away, I left.
There were plenty of people on the ferry with cameras and cellphone cameras. I wasn’t one of them. But you’re bound to see pictures and read accounts that jibe with my own story here.
As for me, I hope the two dimes and one dead bird are all the damned bad luck I’m going to have for today!
- Mike Cane interviewed via phone on MSNBC TV
- Staten Island ferry crash in pictures (Chicago Tribune)
- Story covered in the Wall Street Journal