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Close Calls

By Karl C. Priest January 23, 2021 (revised February 26, 2021)

On a very cold winter night in 1968. My ship (U.S.S. Wright CC2) was in the North Atlantic operating somewhere in the vicinity of New England.

I had just crawled up onto my third level rack about five minutes before Taps (2200 0r 10:00 p.m.) when a blaring alarm sounded over the ship’s 1MC (similar to a civilian public address system).

The alarm was for "Man Overboard" and the crew had to muster at specific locations (where roll call was taken) in order to determine who was missing. Everyone in the berthing compartment went running out and almost all were in their skivvies. I grabbed a pair of dungarees before I hurried up the ladders that led topside. Wow, it was cold! The ship’s foghorn was blaring.

As I stood in formation, a petty officer chewed me out for bringing the dungarees. He thought (wrongly) my getting them had slowed me down.

It turned out that the wrong alarm had been sounded. Our ship had narrowly missed a collision with another ship. It was not a U.S. Navy ship. I never learned what the other ship was. Perhaps a merchant ship, or very likely an Eastern Bloc communist vessel which often tried to shadow us due to the nature of the Wright. (See “Ghosts of the East Coast: Doomsday Ships”.

Had there been a collision that night, it would have been near chaos. A potential collision has a separate alarm. After that alarm, the crew would have went to Abandon Ship posts. Those posts were near life jacket storage and small boat areas.

I would have had a survival advantage because, in boot camp, we had been trained how to make a pair of dungarees into a flotation device. That said, the icy water would have allowed for only about 90 minutes before I would have lost consciousness.

The crew survived a close call that blustery night.

Do you recall close calls you have lived through?

In fact, there are many close calls you likely do not think about. For example, when you drive on a two-lane highway every vehicle that passes you, going in the opposite direction, is a close call. You can increase your chances of survival for some close calls (dungarees or good airbags, for example).

How many close calls you survive really does not matter. At some point, you will die.

God gave us directions on how to prepare for that “call”.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12

Also, see Romans 10:9-11.

When your final call comes, it will not be close.

This article was printed as an “Essay on Faith” in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on February 26, 2021, pg. 6B.

LEGACY INDEX