HE CLUNG TO WRECKAGE
A graphic account of the sinking of the Titanic was told yesterday by Charles Weikman, chief barber on the liner, at his home in Palmyra, N. J. Weikman was one of the few who remained with the vessel until it sank, and then was fortunate enough to be rescued.
After all the boats had left the ship," he said yesterday, every one gathered on the top deck. As I bent over, throwing a lifebelt around my shoulders, I heard a terrible cry go up from those left on the vessel, and I turned around to see the stem of the ship disappearing under the waves. The stern rose out of the water to an almost perpendicular position and, with hundreds of others, I was thrown out into the sea. As I hit the chilly water I was stunned for a second, and then struck out for a pile of wreckage that was drifting about fifty feet away.
"Then one of those unaccountable acts of providence helped me, and I was able to be saved. One of the boilers in the ship, which still had fires under it, exploded. This created a large wave, which came rapidly toward me, and on the crest of the wave I was dashed within reaching distance of the wreckage. I clung desperately. The Titanic had disappeared. Then I must have become unconscious, for the next thing I knew I had been picked up by a lifeboat."
George D. Widener, John B. Thayer and Arthur Ryerson, all offered seats in the boats with the women, refused to leave the ship while there were women yet aboard.
Barber Will Quit the Sea
With tears rolling down his cheeks the rescued barber spoke falteringly of the heartrending partings between husbands and wives and mothers and children, and of their last goodbys [sic] that floated through the air from the lifeboats that moved swiftly out of sight and hearing. Weikman has made 750 trips across the Atlantic, but has decided to quit the sea.
I had closed my shop," he continued, "and was taking a turn on the promenade. Looking through the windows I could see the passengers in the main saloon playing cards and reading. Suddenly, I was startled to hear the hoarse voice of a lookout command Port your helm!"
There was a dead silence for a moment and then I felt the vessel lurch slightly and heard the side plates of the ship wrench and scrape. The bell in the engine room then clanged out the signal for reversing the engine, and I knew that we had struck something.
Passengers by this time had become alarmed and were pouring from the doorways of the saloons and rushing up the companionways. Every one had a question on his or her lips, and for a moment the vessel was in a state of great excitement and disorder.
Talked to Mr. Widener
I remember distinctly Mr. Widener coming up to me as I stood in the bow and asking me quietly what the trouble was. He left me without awaiting my answer. The hands of my watch at this time told me that it was just 12 o'clock.
Not a soul on board knew that the ship had been rent and strained almost one-third of its length on the starboard side. Neither did a soul on board know that at that very moment water was pouring through the rent plates and that the ship was slowly on its way to the bottom.
"I was one of those sent to release the boats from the davits, and upon reaching the upper deck I found that a long, orderly line of passengers had been formed. The passengers were filed into the boats, four at a time---three women and one man.
In a secluded corner of the deck I made out the forms of Colonel John Astor and his wife. I called to them to come over and get in one of the boats. I saw them clasp each other in a final embrace, and then they approached me.
"Mrs. Astor took her seat in the boat first and the colonel hesitated for a moment. I told him to hurry, but he only smiled and shook his head. He then walked to the rail and looked down at the nearing waterline. I saw him once more a little while later standing with Mr. Widener and his son Harry at the rail.
"They were all aiding and giving words of cheer to the heart-broken women, whose sobs and pleadings rose above the noise of the screeching davits as the boats were being lowered.
"During all this time the vessel had been settling slowly and now it was noticed that it had commenced to sink faster.
"Those of us who remained on board must die.
"The parting of the last two boats from the ship's side caused all those on board to rush to the rail. Here I found Mr. and Mrs. Isadore Straus, their arms enfolding one another. Mrs. Straus clambered out of a lifeboat when she learned that her husband would be unable able to accompany her to safety. She remarked that she would rather stay on board with her husband than leave the ship without him. They went down to their death in the sea locked in each other's arms."