General Sessions Court Judge Ron Durby said he is ready to go cruising again despite a recent Titanic-like experience in the Greek Isles.
Judge Durby, back on the bench Tuesday for the first time since his ill-fated adventure, returned to find his office decorated with Titanic and ocean displays, including a doctored Titanic poster with his image inserted.
He and his wife, Vicka, were aboard The Sea Diamond when it sank on April 6, a day after running aground off a Greek island, forcing more than 1,500 passengers and crew to evacuate it.
Judge Durby said the passengers were about to disembark for a tour of the island of Santorini and he and his wife were with a group on the seventh deck. He said others in the Chattanooga party were above taking pictures. They included his daughter's inlaws, Jim and Ida Hall, as well as Tom and Nita Cook and Ralph Dybring.
The judge said, "I felt the boat hit a rock. I felt it lurching and I said to myself, 'Something's not right.'"
He said china and glasses started to fall off shelves - "just like in the movie Titanic."
He added, "We started sliding. We knew something was amiss."
Judge Durby said many passengers really became alarmed when the crew began to close the water-tight doors and when announcements were made about the emergency over the intercom.
He said he and Vicka quickly made their way up to the eighth deck, where lifeboats were being readied. "We followed like sheep being herded," he said.
He said among those in the line were some passengers who had run up from the two lower decks that were already starting to flood. He said a number of teenagers who were on spring break were on the ship and they were especially emotional.
It turned out that the Durbys were among the first to get off the boat. They made their way into a lifeboat that held about 25 passengers.
He said there was some additional excitement when the lifeboat was cut, and it took a sudden drop about eight feet out and three feet down. Again he was reminded of the Titanic movie.
The former Alabama lineman said he was tossed a tiny ring "that was like a kid's life vest. I knew it wasn't going to hold me."
The Durbys then climbed into a larger tender boat that had been sent from the island for them, and they were quickly on shore safely.
The other Chattanoogans arrived later, including Mrs. Cook, who had to climb down a ladder, and the others, who slid down mattresses to the lifeboats.
It was later that day before all the Chattanoogans were reunited on the island.
Judge Durby said the Chattanoogans spent the night on the island, then they went to Athens the next day to continue their vacation on land.
He said he is continuing to field sarcastic comments about his role in the sinking and accusations that he was at the helm.
"I tell them 'I just hit one rock,'" he says.
The judge, who has cruised to the Bahamas, Mexico and Alaska, says he's ready to try it again.