Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
My dear friends on Martha's Vineyard and off the Island who came to honor my incredibly wonderful husband Luther, who lost his battle with cancer, I thank you for walking and driving the last miles with our good friend.
The children he transported for over 30 years told stories about their school bus experiences. One of his former students called me today from New York, remembering that one time she twisted her ankle badly. So Luther drove his bus close to her house and carried her to the door of her home. Gentle, kind, wise - people like Luther are hard to find and he will be missed in our home and community always.
Thank you for the beautiful flowers and cards and food. My gratitude is never-ending. If anyone ever needs help, call me. As you know, I like to keep busy. Bless all of you, and I hope you and any of your relatives will never have to suffer that horrible disease. I am forever grateful for your kindness.
Anne Madison Vanderhoop
To the Editor:
I couldn't let Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson's response to Michael Jampel's letter about the Islander and SSA maintenance go. It would have been better for him to just keep quiet. His condescending tone only magnifies his own ignorance of the apparent facts as presented in the survey report prepared by Seaworthy Systems of New Jersey. I wouldn't have bothered to read the whole 37 pages of the report had Mr. Lamson not been so vaguely defensive.
So, now I've read it, and being generous, I'll allow that the old girl was, well, old. And that over time things do naturally begin to give out. No one who looked at that boat for more than a couple seconds would have said she was in "great shape," but we would have assumed that she was in "OK" shape.
When you are absolutely dependent on something familiar to do its job, just like it always has, it's easy to just sort of squint a little, so you don't have to look too closely. I guess we all squinted when the good old Islander showed up with a new coat of bright white paint on a regular basis. We didn't quite notice the dribbled brown stains which showed up soon after. Those cankers that blistered up around pipes at the bulkheads and around the hatches just didn't seem that important. But the truth is that collectively they were emblematic of the cancer that was consuming our old friend.
Our dependence on the SSA requires us to trust that they always will be there. We have no choice. And like anyone else trapped in a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship, we pretend that things will just work out somehow. And mostly, they do. We all survived the Islander's final years. And we should certainly praise those who worked so hard to keep her going and only miss 12 runs in her last five years of service.
The surveyor commented throughout his report that the mechanicals were all in good shape. But this only seems to illustrate that mechanical issues apparently took so much time that basic structural issues could not be attended to, or worse, were just ignored. To call this a success story seems to defy the obvious.
Structural problems, for sure, are complex. Simply put, any structure depends on the integrity of each of its parts working in unison. To maintain the integrity of the entire structure, all of the pieces have to be in place and act as designed. Weaken any one part and the rest are compromised to some degree. They have to somehow carry the load intended for the weakened part. One failed member weakens the next and the one next to that and so on. Eventually, the dominoes begin to fall.
We didn't have a catastrophic failure on the Islander. Thank goodness. But let's not fool ourselves into believing that we were anything but lucky.
No one who looked at that survey report would wonder, "How could so much damage occur in a year?", as Mr. Lamson seems to imply. Either by plan or by ignorance, serious structural repairs were not done for several years.
I don't think that Michael Jampel was writing to cast blame, though. I suppose it could be inferred, but I do think he was doing the right thing to make us aware of the problem. I also do not believe that his letter was an indictment of the men and women who work on the boats. After all, they can only do what they're told. I don't believe that bluster from the SSA manager should have been the response. Nor do I believe it served any worthwhile purpose. He might have tried, "We should have done better", or maybe even "We will do better?" I'm afraid that noise in his response would seem to imply that we can more likely expect more of the same. Let's hope not.