By Shirley Keith
On February 20, 2019, The National Geographic crew flew from London to Jacksonville, FL to interview Mrs. Rochelle Hamm, the widow of Able Body Seaman Frank Hamm, who was aboard the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro. On October 1, 2015, the El Faro, in route to San Juan, Puerto Rico sailed into the Category 3 hurricane Joaquin in the Bahamas and sank, 33 crew members on the ship perished.
Rochelle, who refused to be content and satisfied with the explanation about the tragedy, sought answers for this disaster. She introduced legislation called “The Hamm Alert” that called for changes in the maritime industry. On September 28, 2018 the Hamm Alert Maritime Safety Act of 2018 was passed and on October 11, 2018 it was signed into legislation by the president. In memory of AB Seaman Frank Hamm.
The National Geographic became interested in her accomplishments and requested an interview with Rochelle. They arrived early on Wednesday morning, February 20th with JJ, the producer, Steve and Sean, the camera and sound men and assisted by Jaine who kept everything running smooth and timely.
They started out at the El Faro Memorial Park. Rochelle’s friend Tracey Turner accompanied her for support. After breakfast, they headed to her church, New Bethlehem Missionary Baptist where the crew met and interviewed her Pastor, Rev. Dr. Marion A. Wise.
First Lady Nikasha Wise and the Mass Choir which Rochelle is a member were present. The choir sang “Amazing Grace” led by Rochelle.
Leaving the church, they headed for Rochelle’s home for an intimate interview with her and the family.
Rochelle said, “I’ve done lots of interviews, but this was the first time anyone entered into my spiritual life. To God the glory in spite of all that has happened”.
This article originally appeared in The Florida Star.