100-year-old remembers 1934 luxury liner fire

LONG BEACH ISLAND - September 22, 2010

She may be 100 years old, but Marjorie Gianini of Florida remembers in detail the September night in 1934 when the young newlywed jumped shoeless and in a negligee from the deck of the burning luxury liner Morro Castle, 8 miles off the coast of Asbury Park.

"I just turned in the air and the next thing I knew I was gone. I was coming up trying to breathe and I couldn't make it and I finally made it," Marjorie said.

In a visit to the Museum of New Jersey maritime history in Beach Haven and holding a life preserver from the doomed ship, Marjorie reacted to a photo of the Morro Castle's radio operator George Rogers. He's the first person she saw after jumping in the ocean with her husband.

"He could have helped so many people and he didn't help anyone," Marjorie said.

"George Rogers, we're quite sure was responsible for the arson of the Morro Castle which led to the deaths of 137 innocent people," Deb Whitcraft of the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History said.

A picture taken after the disaster shows Marjorie has a black eye. She and her husband Paul swam for at least 12 hours before they finally hit shore.

She and many others have criticized the crew for not doing enough to help passengers, but the assistant radio room operator Jerry Ederton, now 90, the only living crewman, thinks that's unfair.

"When the deck is burning beneath you and it's so hot you can't stand it, the smart thing to do is go overboard and that's what we did," Jerry said.

Marjorie Gianini's son says the only movie she's ever refused to go see was Titanic.

She says why bother? She lived it!

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