Over the next few days, Terry Jo endured the blazing sun and the freezing winds at night. Even during the day, the pleasant breeze of the Caribbean became a source of unbearable pain to Terry Jo as it blew across her parched eyes. She had had nothing to eat or drink for almost four days. And she began drifting in and out of consciousness. She was living in a dream world, where the line between her visions of being with her family became blurred with the harsh reality of her ordeal at sea.
The average person can only survive around three days without water, so by the time the sun rose on the fourth morning, and Terry Jo’s eyes fluttered awake, she was on the verge of death as her kidneys began to shut down. But that morning, as her eyes opened, she saw an enormous shape coming out of the haze on the horizon. In her extreme state, she thought it was a huge whale swimming towards her, but as it got closer and she could hear the hum of its engine, she realized she was saved. It was a Greek merchant vessel, plying the trade lanes in the Caribbean and there, at the end of her strength it had happened upon the young girl adrift at sea. Terry Jo’s story quickly made the papers and the photo of a ghostly little girl on a raft quickly spread across the nation.
But there was one person who wasn’t quite so happy to discover the girl had survived. Captain Harvey had been picked up on his lifeboat a few days earlier and according to the story he gave investigators, a tropical storm had blown down the mast of the Bluebell, tearing a hole through the boat and rupturing gas lines. Harvey had tried to save the passengers, but the ship had gone down too fast, and everyone on board had drowned. The authorities accepted Harvey’s explanation and let him go free. But when Harvey heard that Terry Jo had been rescued, he quietly checked into a hotel and slashed his wrists with a razor blade, bleeding to death shortly afterward.
Terry Jo’s account of the accident conflicted with Harvey’s and taken with his suicide, the police began looking into Harvey’s past. Harvey had been married six times and his last wife died in a mysterious car accident, which Harvey survived. Police noted that Harvey’s wife Diane had a twenty thousand dollar insurance policy. Thanks to Terry Jo’s account, they concluded that he murdered his wife for the insurance money and killed the rest of the passengers to keep his crime secret. Terry Jo returned to Wisconsin to live with her aunt and cousins.
Terry Jo has lived a mostly quiet life since then, trying to move past her ordeal. But she eventually penned an account of her experience in a book called Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean, allowing her story of heroic survival to serve as an inspiration to people all over the world.