Captain Phillips: An Inspiring Tale of Survival

On February 22nd, Captain Richard Phillips visited Nichols College to speak to students, staff and community members. His inspiring tale of survival is well known across the world.

March 31, 2009 began as any normal day would, but little did Captain Phillips know that it would be the first day of the longest voyage of his life.  As soon as he stepped on the Maersk Alabama, he realized that the security was not up to the standards he was used to and that this ship was unlike any ship he had been Captain of before.

Captain Phillips decided he should do an emergency drill to see if his crew was prepared for an attack. Throughout his speech, Phillips kept repeating, “We were expecting the worst,” due to the many recent pirate attacks in the waters that he and his crew would be traveling through. The drill lasted 15 minutes, and it was not the best exercise; many doors were unlocked among other issues, proving his crew was not prepared. He decided to have a discussion with his crew to go over what had gone wrong and the code words they would use for looming pirate attacks.

Captain Phillips continued to fascinate us with his compelling story. He and his crew heard “Somali Pirates are coming to get you,” over the radio on the morning of April 8, 2009. The crew did exactly what they learned during the drill a couple days earlier. The entire ship was secured, as the pirates approached just 50 yards away. Everyone on board, except for the captain, was hidden in a safe room. A couple of minutes later, Captain Phillips was face-to-face with the Somali pirates’ leader.

The pirates forced Captain Phillips to talk over the loud speaker.  He announced, “All crew to the bridge, all crew to the bridge.” Little did the pirates know that this was a secret code word and the crew knew not to emerge from the safe room, but one member forgot and showed up to the bridge. The pirates were not convinced that there were no other crewmembers on board, so they toured the ship with Captain Philips and then with the sailor. When the pirates’ leader and the sailor went around searching the boat, the crew knew and took the leader as their hostage.

Soon the three pirates that had remained in the helm with the captain grew worried because their leader had been gone a long time. Captain Phillips said the pirates could take one of the lifeboats along with their leader, but only if they got off the ship. The pirates agreed, but they wanted a hostage, so Captain Phillips volunteered to be the hostage.

The pirates held Captain Phillips until Easter Sunday when the navy surrounded the pirates’ lifeboat. During a very intense period of time, the navy shot and killed all four of the pirates who were holding Captain Phillips hostage. At that point, one of the rescuers made his way to the lifeboat and brought the captain to safety.

I thought Captain Phillips was one of the most captivating speakers we have had on campus so far this year. Throughout his entire speech, I could truly feel what he was feeling during his hours of captivity. Phillips even displayed pictures of his ship, the map, and of the Somali Pirates. Captain Phillips also kept telling us that we are stronger than we think, and listening to his story and what he went through makes me believe this. I really enjoyed that Captain Phillips began with how he always wanted to become a captain and the journey he went through to make it happen.

Leave a Reply