Prior to the last voyage, I had been on the Andrea
Doria twice and had thoroughly enjoyed it! In 1956, I had returned to Rome
where I was studying piano, as well as concertizing throughout Europe. That
summer I went to Brussels to participate in the Queen Elizabeth Concours; it was
the year that Vladimir Ashkenazy won, and the entire Concours was very exciting.
When it was over, I was very tired and homesick, so I booked passage to New York
on the Andrea Doria, and boarded at Cannes. It was wonderful to be once
again aboard 'an old friend', and I spent the return voyage resting and totally
enjoying the ship.
I met many wonderful folks, and even tough
traveling alone, never felt lonesome at all. I was asked to give a concert,
which I did, and had pictures taken with the Captain and crew, which they
The final day before arriving in New York was
very foggy; with the foghorn sounding regularly, and the eerie feeling of the
fog, all of this made everyone rather subdued. It was a quiet, uneventful day;
that night we packed our bags early for we were to dock early the next morning.
We put all of our luggage outside our cabins - they were picked up and put on
the starboard side for off-loading when we got to New York. I stayed up and was
in the lounge visiting with some friends and listening to a musical group play
softly, when the collision occurred. We had no idea what had happened; a
tremendous metallic grinding, and then immediately the ship listed far to the
right. I kicked my shoes off, joined hands with the others, and went to the
upper side. When there, my new friend went below and came back with three
life-jackets - for him and his wife, and me, and then they went away. The life
boats up there were swinging with no possibility of using them.
A priest came by and gave all of us absolution.
The ship continued to list, and I knew I'd have to go to the low side to
eventually get off. We could not stand at all, so I sat and scooted over those
high door sills, all the way down to the low side. Here was all of our luggage -
piled up everywhere - so I perched atop some and waited for something to happen,
praying fervently all the while. There was no intercom - no messages. We had
electricity, and the crew were wonderful; they kept bringing people to this area
from below, some of them in terrible shape. The fog was very heavy and seemed
About 4 or so in the morning, someone said ' look
at that ' - I bent way down and looked across the water - there was the Ile de
France with every light lit, looking like a message from the Almighty!
The fog had lifted - I must say that I have
always thought there were a number of miracles involved with this catastrophe:
First of all, the fog lifted in total darkness,
around 4 in the morning; it always lifts when the sun comes up and burns it off
- this was not the case.
The sea was calm - it made the rescue of us all
an infinitely easier task.
That blessed ship stayed afloat until later that
morning, allowing everyone to get off. What a tribute to the shipbuilding skills
of the Italians!
Eventually a lifeboat from the Ile de France
came alongside, and I got into it. I looked up and the ships' funnel was
directly overhead. We filled the lifeboat and proceeded to the far side of the Ile
de France. When there, we found that we had to climb an enormously long
ladder to get to the top of the ship - my muscles were trembling though I had no
scratches, bruises, cuts, or bumps - so I went slowly and carefully up that very
long ladder. When I got to the top, there was a double row of the personnel, one
undid and took off my life-jacket, the other one put a blanket around me and
said 'Bon Soir' - I promptly hugged him! I went down that hallway to where there
was a Doctor and nurses; I was asked if I was hurt or wet - I was neither. So, I
proceeded to the next area where there were lots of tables loaded with
coffee/juices/milk/brioches/fruit/ - all sorts of things to eat and drink. I got
something and finally got outside - I didn't want to be under a roof, or
anything else any more.
Gradually it became light, and I could see the
beautiful Andrea Doria on its side, dying in such a desperate violation
of everything. We left before it went down - the first time any of us found out
what had happened to us was on the Ile de France; the passengers
had small radios and we listened to the news on them.
My mother was at home in Wichita, Kansas; she had
had a very bad dream that night about the Andrea Doria - that there had
been a collision and possibly many people were lost, but that I was o.k. - When
she woke up, she went to Church; on the way, she heard on the car radio that the
Andrea Doria has been sunk; possibly the greatest maritime tragedy since
the Titanic' - she got to Church, and dissolved in tears. Our priest asked her
what had happened - when she told him, the entire Church began praying for us
I had friends in New York who found me and got me
to their apartment; after a day or so, I was able to go home -
I must say that I have never had nightmares about
this, and have been on a number of sea voyages since. I'd go again in a minute!
It is something I will never ever forget, and I'm
eternally grateful that we all were able to come away from this terrible