Unlike the cruise ships further south, nobody stands at the edge of the port to wave farewell to the massive cargo vessels leaving the Port of Savannah. In this case, its a reversal of fortune where those on board listen to beach music coming from the shore and watch vacationers getting drunk, having a great time. But there is one figure who stands at the water’s edge to wave goodbye as sailors steam to the opposite side of the earth, and to greet them as they return. But she’s not waving to just anyone. She’s looking for someone special – the sailor that she fell in love with so many years ago as a young girl. Sadly enough, it’s safe to say she will never find him.
Florence Martus stood near the mouth of the Savannah River for 44 years, from 1887 when she was 19 years old, until 1943. There she waved a cloth during the day and a lantern at night to passing ships, hoping her lost love would find her upon his return. Unfortunately, fate can sometimes be cruel.
Today, visitors to Savannah will hear of her failed but legendary quest for true love on the city’s riverfront, where a monument has been erected in her honor. The Waving Girl statue will continue to face toward the sea, greeting ships as they pass. Her face is sad, almost knowing that her quest ends in vain. As I watch her wave at the departing container ship behind me, I wonder if the real Florence, who lived until a ripe age of 75, ever found any love at all, or if the legend is true. Of course, I could find out easily enough, but I think I’ll just leave this one a mystery.