THE JERSEY SHORE GETS “nor’easters,” massive storms that dump tons of water or snow on our heads. They’re fun to live through, if you can escape massive flooding — my wife and I live in a noisy apartment, and we can hear the wind whistling through the windows as we sleep. Whenever one starts blowing in, I put on my poncho and head to the Asbury Park boardwalk, where I can watch massive waves break on the jetties.
There was a famous nor’easter that happened decades ago, part of a disaster that is permanently linked with the little stretch of beach I would watch the waves from. In the 1930’s, Havana was a popular travel destination for New Yorkers, and the best way to get there was over ocean liners. The SS Morro Castle took passengers straight down the Atlantic Coast to Havana and back. But on a return trip in September of 1934, a few disasters struck at once.
First, a nor’easter hit. This alone a typical ocean liner could handle. But on September 7th, the captain died suddenly of a heart attack. And then on the morning of September 8th, a fire started.