What a wonderful, wonderful story from our very special Florida Keys correspondent, Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd. And who would have thought about such an intimate 9/11 connection in the Florida Keys!
Monday, September 12th, 2011
Life Aboard in the Keys: Where Last Names Are Optional
by Charmaine Smith Ladd
Down here in the Keys, boaters are very laid back and unassuming. Most never inquire about the past of others, nor do we often know last names. Nicknames such as “Diver Dave” and “Fiberglass Dave” serve to differentiate boaters and tout their trades. I am probably one of the very few boaters who doesn’t have a nickname. But Charmaine is a very unique name. My spouse, however, is known as “Charmaine’s Bill.” There are lots of guys named “Bill” in the boating community. LOL
A gentleman I have known for many years, “Ed on Old Broad,” is a delightful man with a kind heart. He and his wife, Sally, are more known for their gigantic feline ‘boatcat’ than probably anything else. Or so I thought. Another boater came by yesterday and told me others were gathering to watch CNN’s feature “Footnotes of 9-11.” He told me, “Ed on Old Broad’s interview is gonna be on there.” Not imagining the connection, my friend then enlightened me that “Ed on Old Broad,” before his cruising life, was Ed Ballinger, a Dispatcher for United Airlines in Chicago. Ed Ballinger handled 16 flights for United Airlines on that tragic day ten years ago, 9-11. Two of the flights Dispatcher Ed Ballinger handled were Flight 175 and Flight 93. Both were hijacked.
At the time of the interview, CNN came here to Boot Key Harbor (BKH) and filmed it while aboard Ed’s sailing vessel, Old Broad. Currently, Ed and Sally are just a few boats down from September Sea at a marina where we are enjoying the benefits of ample shore power for cooling off during the hot summer months here in the Keys. Last night, a number of us got together at the marina tikki hut bar, along with Ed and his wife Sally, to watch as planned. Ed was visibly shaken and cried during certain portions of the broadcast. We all cried along with him. We all consoled him. This was a real life truth to the adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” We who live aboard and/or cruise full-time come from all walks of life. Our life aboard and sailing give us a freedom much yearned for, and needed for many differing reasons.
I hope many of you will share this with others, including landlubber friends and relatives. Just as there are those who live vicariously through we who cruise and sail, embracing the thought of such freedom; contrarily, many do not understand why anyone could give up a house or condo on land and opt to live aboard a boat. For my fellow cruiser and friend, “Ed on Old Broad,” who, for a brief time last night became Dispatcher Ed Balllinger once again, today he’s back to being “Ed on Old Broad.” I like it that way. I’m sure “Ed on Old Broad” does too.
Click the link to view the interview:
Charmaine Smith Ladd
SSECN, Special Correspondent for the Florida Keys
“Bringing you the low down from down low.”
Shows you how even boat names aren’t that important down here in the Keys: Ed’s boat’s full name is “Good Old Broad.” Sorry about that, Ed, she is most certainly a ‘GOOD Old Broad’! Didn’t mean to hurt her feelings.
Thank you for the quick reply. What a moving story about Ed. You know – that reminds me at something my mother used to say. “Behind every window there is a light – there live people, just like me and you. You never know what they went through in life – they just try to make the best of it.”
Ernst & Melinda