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“Finest Hours” Author Casey Sherman Discusses School-Wide Summer Read
On September 7, 2016
Author Casey Sherman spent yesterday morning at Saint Raphael Academy, talking about his book, “The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue,” (written with Michael J. Tougias), which was selected as the school-wide summer reading book.
Casey Sherman, a bestselling author from Massachusetts, has written several books, many about local historical events in Massachusetts. The former broadcast journalist spoke to classes about how he wrote the book and how it then became a movie.
“The Finest Hours” is an account of the true events of February 18, 1952, when two oil tankers were caught in a nor’easter off the coast of Cape Cod. Against all odds, four Coast Guard crew members—just barely in their 20s—managed to rescue more than 30 of the tankers’ crew. Their effort is considered the greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard history.
Ironically, the Coast Guard crew did not view the events as anything more than doing their job. Mr. Sherman told of how, when he first contacted crew member Bernie Webber and said he’d like to tell his story, Mr. Webber had hung up on him. Persistent, Mr. Sherman called him weekly just to chat, and six weeks later, Mr. Webber agreed to talk about the events of that day, when he hardly ever talked about it to his own family. But Mr. Sherman knew that his was a story that could inspire people all over the world.
Over the course of a year of talking with Mr. Webber, Mr. Sherman developed a personal relationship with him. They discussed Mr. Webber’s faith during the rescue, when things were at their worst. While he had lost his compass, and the boat’s windshield had broken with the shards of glass stuck in his face, Mr. Webber maintained faith in something bigger than himself and he knew he could save those men. Mr. Sherman encouraged Saints to rely on faith when things get tough for them in their own lives.
Mr. Webber passed away in 2009, just before the book was published, but he did read the final manuscript. He was convinced that it would make a great movie, and that goal soon became something Mr. Sherman wanted to achieve for Mr. Webber.
Mr. Sherman pitched his book to a Hollywood producer he met by chance; soon after, Disney became interested in the project and made the movie. The film cost $85 million, took four years to produce, and involved the building of a 4-million-gallon water tank in Boston and employing 700-800 people a day while filming.
Saints faculty have been incorporating aspects of the book into their curriculum in the beginning days of school, and students asked questions at the end of the presentation.
One student asked what was difficult about writing “The Finest Hours,” to which Mr. Sherman replied that the technical aspects of the ship and Coast Guard terms were difficult for him to understand and then try to explain in a simpler way to readers. In response to what was his favorite book that he’s written, Mr. Sherman simply stated, “The next one,” and went on to say that he is always looking for the next great story to share.