But she’s not his mother
Every year on Mother’s Day, Lynnwood Armstrong calls Grace Callaway to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, and to chat. Grace isn’t Lynnwood’s mother; she is his best friend’s mother. So why does he call her?
Tragedy links them
On May 9, 1980, Armstrong and Grace’s son, Chip Callaway, were on a Greyhound bus, heading back to college. Armstrong got off in Tampa, the last stop before the Skyway bridge; Chip stayed on the bus to continue his trip. The day was uncharacteristically rainy and overcast, limiting vision on the four-lane bridge. But cars, trucks, and the Greyhound drove across unaware that a tragedy was unfolding in the water below.
In the churning waters, a 608-foot phosphate tanker, the MV Summit Venture struggled to stay in the shipping channel, buffeted by the rain and wind.
Blinded by the storm, the wind-blown 19,734-ton Summit Venture crashed into a support column of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge just after 7:30 a.m. The 609-foot ship’s impact sent a 1,200 to 1,400 foot span plunging 15 stories into Tampa Bay.(10 Tampa Bay, May 9, 2022)
When the tanker hit, the bridge collapsed, sending the bus and a pickup into the water. Recalling that day, Lynnwood said, “When I saw them pulling up the bodies and the bus later and saw the number on the side of the bus I knew that was the one I got off.”
All thirty-five riders on the bus, including Chip Calloway, died that day. Lynnwood called Chip’s mother, Grace, and broke the news to her.
The only person who survived the fall into the water was Wesley MacIntire. His pickup truck fell and hit the prow of the Summit Venture and the crew of the ship saved him.
Knowing he could never take the place of her son Chip, one of his closest friends, Armstrong took up the task of calling Grace every Mother’s Day since the crash.
“I’ve been doing that for 39 years. I call her every Mother’s Day and every Christmas. It’s just that bond we have. It may seem to strange to others but it’s normal to us,” Armstrong said. (10 Tampa Bay, May 9, 2019)