I instantly took a liking to Jamie Barnett when I first met her.
In 2007, Jamie traveled to Fort Lauderdale to attend a meeting between the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") and the cruise industry trade association, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). Jamie had flown in from Los Angeles for the meeting.
Jamie, a Mississippi-native-turned-L.A.-resident, traveled to Florida as part of the ICV group to convince the cruise industry to agree to safety measures to protect passengers sailing on cruise ships.
You see, Jamie's daughter, Ashley, died on a Carnival cruise in 2005. Her story is on the ICV's web page - "What Happened to My Daughter?" Jamie's daughter, beautiful Ashley, was a happy, vibrant young woman when she boarded the cruise ship. A day later she was dead and alone in a morgue in Mexico.
Tragedies like this can destroy most folks. But Jamie has been a force to be reckoned with, as they say. She took Carnival on for the medical negligence of their medical staff. Although she can't talk about it because of a confidentiality order - she made the cruise line pay because of their medical malfeasance.
But lawsuits can accomplish only so much. Compensation and a pound of flesh if you are lucky. The real battle is fought and won by moving past the lawsuit and investing your energies to protect others. Like, as Jamie has done, forcing the cruise industry to implement steps to protect the next Ashley Barnett who steps on a cruise ship.
Jamie's story is told on CBS' 48 Hours Mystery - Dark Waters. Jamie explains how the loss of Ashley motivates her to protect other moms who kids may sail on the next cruise from hell. What you will see, hear and feel watching this seven minute segment should provide you with some insight into Jamie's passion - it is quite overwhelming.
Jamie meets with the mother of George Smith IV, who suffered a similar tragedy three months before Ashley's death when she lost her son during a cruise. The grief of these parents brings meaning to those who crusade for safer cruises.
Jamie is now the President of the New York chapter of the ICV. Unlike the cruise industry employees who slog through a 9 - 5 job promoting the business of cruising, Jamie and others in the victim's organization, who have lost children on cruises, live and breathe the urgent need to improve the cruise industry 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And they will do so for the rest of their lives.
Jamie's dedication led to the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, which will protect millions of passengers who climb aboard cruise ships each year. The new cruise safety law will be signed by President Obama in the next few days.
Jamie has a blog, called "Living Through the Loss," which is a very personal expression of Jamie's struggle facing the horror of losing her daughter while finding strength in the process to help others.
Last week, Jamie attended a reception in the Capital Building in Washington to celebrate the passing of the new cruise safety law. The reception was attended by members of the ICV, Congressional leaders, and the media. Jamie shares her fight for the new law over the past four years in the video below:
Another video by Jamie on behalf of the International Cruise Victims is available here.
Mom and daughter Jamie Barnett
Ashley Barnett CBS 48 Hours
Video Jamie Barnett