Merchant Marine and Riverview resident Michael Perry had no idea when boarding the Maersk Alabama for a routine three-month sea voyage servicing East Africa that the trip would take a dreadful turn for the worse.
The seas were calm that fateful day in April, but approximately 500 kilometers off the Somalia coast, the vessel was attacked by pirates and, with the captain and three other crew members captured, a dangerous game of cat and mouse ensued.
After he heard the word “the pirates are boarding the ship”, Perry immediately took as many of his crewmates as possible and secured them in a room off the engine room. Knowing most of the crew was safe and hearing the pirates had taken the bridge, Perry transferred control of the ship from the bridge to the engine room. He also disabled the engine and shut off all power to the lighting, plunging the ship into complete darkness.
In trying times, we learn a lot about who we are as individuals. Perry is a hero.
During the almost 12-hour ordeal when the bandits were on board their ship, pocketknife-wielding Perry managed to capture one of the gun-toting pirates and subdue him.
A plan was hatched to trade the captured pirate for the last hostage, their captain. After readying a small boat, the pirates and captain launched themselves. Perry and other crewmembers, including first mate Shane Murphy, worked to get the ship up and running. Preparations were made to coordinate the exchange. When all was ready, the small boat came alongside for the exchange. The captain was to simultaneously climb up the Alabama’s ladder as the captured pirate climbed down. For some unknown reason, the captain didn’t climb the ladder, and the Alabama and its crew ended up pursuing the pirates vigilantly before the Navy arrived and eventually, days later, sharpshooters eliminated the pirates.
Arriving home, emotionally and physically drained, Perry found his house a wreck and the yard devastated. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Perry quickly found himself surrounded by people coming to his aid, cleaning his home and tidying the yard.
“I was at my wit’s end at that point and it was wonderful to see their concern for me,” he said.
Perry credits his faith for his ability to maintain calm during his time on the ship.
“During this trial, I relied on my relationships with Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ and the spiritual closeness I feel with the Holy Ghost,” said Perry. “The entire experience was a 33-hour prayer.”
For more information about the Maersk Alabama, please visit www.maersk.com.