Elizabeth City, N.C. — The American Red Cross honored 22 members of the United States Coast Guard Thursday evening for their rescue of 14 people on a famous tall ship that sunk off the North Carolina coast last October.
Hurricane Sandy was roaring up the East Coast when the HMS Bounty left port. Reports say the Bounty's captain thought the ship would be safer at sea.
But rough water threatened the Bounty and the crew abandoned ship. That's when Coast Guard helicopters and rescue swimmers plucked 14 people from the turbulent water.
"When we got out there to the Bounty, the weather was what you would expect in a hurricane," Lt. Michael Meyers said. "Once we got over head, it looked like a big ol' pirate ship."
Lt. Jane Pena remembers searching the water for survivors.
"Once we got on scene, it was a big debris field," she said.
Captain Robin Walbridge and one crew member, Claudene Christian, died in the wreckage.
As the rescued crew members were brought to shore, it was the Red Cross that was waiting there to feed, clothe and comfort them.
"There is a fair amount of irony being called a hero by the Red Cross," Meyers said.
Red Cross spokesman Jim Self said it was easy to help the shipwreck victims once he put himself in their shoes.
"It's not difficult if you look at it like, 'What if it were me?'" Self said. "If you've had a life so good, and you come across someone whose life, suddenly, is so bad, and you can do a little bit to make it better, then it's worth it."
Self and his wife, Carolyn Self, have each been with the Red Cross for more than 20 years.
"I love what I do, and I'm making a different in people's lives," Carolyn Self said.