Interview with Sue Hills
February 6, 2001
Question: How are you associated with the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?
Answer: My uncle, Gordon MacLellan, was on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Question: What did your uncle do on board the Fitz?
Answer: Gordon was a wiper on the ship.
Question: How old were you when the Fitz went down?
Answer: I was 17 years old when the Fitz went down.
Question: How did you find out that your uncle and the ship were missing?
Answer: My father came by that morning and told us that the ship was missing and to say a prayer that they would be found.
Question: What is your best memory of your uncle?
Answer: I don't have much memory of him. Since he had been on the Fitzgerald for 5 years, we barely saw him. I do remember that he was short and stocky and always had a smile on his face. He also loved hot dogs!
Question: Did the crew men (not the actual ship) get the attention they deserved?
Answer: I think that most of the attention has been directed towards the captain, the first mate, and the more commissioned people on the ship. I haven't yet seen, heard, or read much if anything about the others, except what I have read on your website. In fact, there is only one article that I have that mentions anything about my uncle, and that was an interview that my grandfather gave in regards to the ship being lost. Also, the books that I have acquired do not go into the rest of the crewmen's lives or the way they were. All that is ever mentioned is their names at the beginning or the end of a documentary.
Question: What is your theory on what happened on 11/10/75?
Answer: I believe that the waves and the swells split the boat in half. I don't believe that it was the lockdowns. These guys were experienced, they knew how to take care of the Edmund and I don't think that anyone would try to speed things up and do something incorrectly. Look at the weather conditions that night. They were just not in the right place to make it safely to shore.
Question: Who was at fault/what could have prevented the wreck?
Answer: I believe it was fate. No one could have prevented it. What happened was what was supposed to be.
Question: What are your feelings on Gordon Lightfoot’s song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?
Answer: The song keeps the legend alive. It also tells the story. I have honestly hardly been able to listen to the song all the way through, though. Even 25 years later. Mr. Lightfoot really got to the heart of everything when he wrote that song.
Question: Should there be further expeditions to the wreck of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald wreck site?
Answer: NO - they should let it be. There is no reason to go down there anymore. The bell has already been enough. That's all that needed to be done.
Question: Why do you think, after 25 years, the Edmund Fitzgerald is still remembered?
Answer: I don't know. Because of the history aspect? Because it was during our time? Because it wasn't really that long ago and there are people still being involved in it, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters. They are keeping the Fitzgerald alive. And that's a good thing.
Question: Had your uncle sailed before this voyage?
Answer: My uncle had been on the Fitzgerald for about 5 years. My grandfather was a Master Captain who sailed the Great Lakes for about 30 years on a number of cargo vessels. My grandfather had even sailed the route that the Fitzgerald had taken a number of times. Needless to say, we all knew of the perils on the waters.
Question: What books/info resources would you recommend most if someone was researching the Fitz?
Answer: There are several books out, yet you have to order them. It really depends on what you are looking for.
Question: Were you ever able to attend any memorial services? If so, which ones, and if you would like, elaborate on them.
Answer: I was never able to attend any of the services, though I do plan on attending the one this year. I hear that they are really...words can't express how they are.
Question: Many say that the wreck was caused by human error; what is your opinion on this accusation?
Answer: When a tragedy like this happens, they have to blame it on someone, something. It always is caused by human error, or so they say. I believe what had to be done was done, it was in the gods hands at that time, and nothing else could have been done. Things happen, the Fitzgerald took a swell and a wave came back down on her. No human could have seen what was coming.
Question: What notable places/things involving the wreck would you recommend that people “check out?”
Answer: Your website - its the best I've found so far. Keep up the good work.
Question: Has the wreck become too commercial? Please explain.
Answer: I don't think so. I haven't seen any t-shirts or stuff like that around, though they might have them at the museum. I live in Florida, at times I have to explain to people about the Edmund Fitzgerald. I think that the only ones trying to make it become commercial are just trying to find a fast dime. The pictures that are printed, the books that are published, are in respect to the Edmund and the crew. They are done with taste and make her look very beautiful.