Heroes and heroines

James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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who do you think are heroes and heroines of the disaster here are my top 10.(10)Molly Brown(9)Countess of Rothes(8)the engineers(7)the firemen(6)the band(5)the Straus couple(4)the wireless oparaters(3)the stewards(2)the crew(1)captain Smith.tell me what you think at my e-mail which is polisher35@aol.com
 
Dec 2, 2000
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My number one would be Boxhall.(Position)
My number two would be Phillips. (got help)
My number three would be every person who gave up a spot for another person.
My number four would be Murdoch. (he saved families)
My number five would be the Engineers. (they kept things going to the end)
My number six would be Lowe. (he went back)
My number seven would be lightoller. (he kept folks going and balanced on an overturned lifeboat)
My number eight would be Guginheims man servant.(he did his duty to the end when he could have saved himself)
My number nine would be Rostron. (he came)
My number ten would be Molly Brown and the Countess. (crossed social boundaries barred from women and took lead roles in the lifeboat).
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I’ve always found the question of defining heroism rather problematic, and finding a set of criteria for who is a hero and applying it can be difficult. The term has become rather debased, as it’s applied even to exceptional sports men and women (although even here, some of them put in efforts that could perhaps be justifiably termed ‘heroic’). Heroism is a term broad enough to encompass a huge range of human behaviour, from someone who performs amazing physical feats to save lives, to those who make quiet, unobtrusive sacrifices that are not always noticed in the big picture. I also believe that looking at people in terms of whether they were heroes or not can rather straightjacket our perceptions and interpretations of them as individuals. Their character and conduct becomes subject to our own personal code and beliefs.

I’ve seen it argued that none of the crew could be called heroes, no matter what actions they took, because they were ‘just doing their jobs’. Of course, I don’t believe this for a moment — the same argument could be applied to the firefighters and policemen on duty in NYC last September, and I don’t think there’s much question about their qualities of heroism — it may have been their ‘job’ to do what they did, but that by no means diminishes the heroic nature of their deeds. And there were many acts of self-sacrifice and extraordinary courage that took place on the ship before she sank that we will never know about.

Even given all that I’ve stated in the above first paragraph, and my resistance to labeling men and women heroes (or villains, to go to the polar opposite), there are still some figures that transcend any such arguments and deserve the title of hero in its finest, noblest sense. James Moody is one such man.

Perhaps I’ve taken on something of the British preference for quiet, restrained courage in the face of insurmountable odds (Captain Oates, walking out into the blizzard with an few understated words…). But of all the poignant scenes on the boat deck, one that has an extraordinary resonance for me is the parting of Lowe and Moody at 14-16, when Moody — offered a place in a boat — told his colleague to go.

We don’t know too much about what Moody did that night — he didn’t survive, and a junior officer can get lost in the shuffle. But what we do know is that from the time of the collision to virtually the very end, Moody showed extraordinary activity and energy in attempting to save lives. There’s an ineffable grace and dignity to the way this man met his fate — no grand histrionics, no melodrama. Just an endeavour to fulfill his duties to the last. And when we last catch sight of him — working at collapsible A — he was still endeavouring to save lives.

We don’t know exactly what circumstance or element of character or concept of duty that it was which meant that Moody stayed with the ship until the end. Possibly it was deliberate, possibly it was the sense of responsibility as he had been on watch at the time of the accident. We could speculate forever on his motivations, or external elements that meant that he didn’t survive. But when all speculation is done, we are left with what facts we know — and we know that he performed his duty, struggled to save lives, and that it cost him his own.

In a sense, the understated courage with which he quitted what he saw as his duty to the last is indicative of how he lived his entire life. In researching his life story, I have been profoundly touched by the way in which he met the unpleasant tricks fate threw at him with humour, optimism and perseverance. His death wasn’t an uncharacteristic flare of heroism at the end of a banal life — it was an extension of the spirit with which he had lived it.

The above no doubt seems grotesquely sentimental and a hopelessly romanticised view of history, but every now and then one comes across a life that defies cynicism and the dryer elements of academia. James Moody’s was one such life.

As John Manifold once wrote:

But bring the magnifying focus near
And in contempt of muddle and defeat
The old heroic virtues still appear.

****

That's courage chemically pure, uncrossed
With sacrifice or duty or career,
Which counts and pays in ready coin the cost

Of holding course. Armies are not its sphere
Where all's contrived to achieve its counterfeit;
It swears with discipline, it's volunteer.

I could as hardly make a moral fit
Around it as around a lightning flash.
There is no moral, that's the point of it,

No moral. But I'm glad of this panache
That sparkles, as from flint, from us and steel,
True to no crown nor presidential sash

Nor flag nor fame. Let others mourn and feel
He died for nothing: nothings have their place.
While thus the kind and civilised conceal

This spring of unsuspected inward grace
And look on death as equals, I am filled
With queer affection for the human race.
 
May 12, 2005
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Inger,

Beautiful. "Absolutely Beautiful."

James Paul Moody is one of Titanic's mysteries. To us, that is, but I know you'll reveal him to us. There are few whose stories are more deserving to be told than this brave but unsung young man and almost no researcher with a finer heart and vision to tell it than yourself.

Randy
 

Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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In my view, I think it's important to distinguish between people who did heroic things, such as fill the lifeboats, step aside to allow women and children into the boats, give up their lives, etc., on the one hand, and people who emerge as "heroes" in the overall framework of things, on the other.

People who save lives, and who give up their own in doing so, are no doubt heroes, who deserve medals, memorials, and recognitions. But there are also heroes who displayed courage that is less traditional, not readily cognizable in deeds and that, most of the time, goes unrewarded. The latter "heroes" are of the most interest to me.

Frankly, I don't see any of them in this story. Many of the officers of the Titanic, certain passengers and crew would fall into the first category. So would Captain Rostron, and maybe Molly Brown and the Countess.

The closest I can find that falls into the latter category of "hero" would, in my estimation, be William Alden Smith, the U.S. Senator who conducted the investigation of the disaster. Although many have ascribed certain political motivations to him, it seems to me that his determined effort to get to the facts of the disaster, and uncover those at fault deserves some recognition in the annals of heroism.

He went up against some enormously powerful men in doing so. He became personally involved in serving subpeonas on J. Bruce Ismay. His interrogations of witnesses were better than anyone else's, in the United States or Great Britain. I don't think that he succeeded, or that he did a particularly great job of it --- but the effort counts for me. Further, I didn't particularly like Wyn Craig Wade's book about Smith, which made Smith out as some kind alter to worship at. Nonetheless, regardless of whether one dies a natural death, it takes a level of courage to do what he did.

I think that Smith was motivated by a deep sense of commitment to the loss of life in the disaster. He simply couldn't ignore that and then go about his senatorial duties. Some people are like that. I meet them on occasion even today. They have careers, great futures, and status, a nice home, and money --- but something bothers them, they can't ignore it. They can't keep quiet and overlook the thing. They do what they have to do and then end up usually in a much worse situation, but never regretting what they have done. Yet these heroes almost always go unrecognized. Even worse, sometimes they are called "disloyal," or made out to be crazy or something. Fortunately, though, such heroes often set standards in our civilized society and that, I think, is their tribute.

Certainly, in pursuing the steamship company's owners, and in passing legislation, Smith got the message across that the Titanic disaster was not acceptable -- that it better not ever happen again. Alas, what he did was not nearly enough. But if no one had done anything there probably would have been more such disasters.

I think Ernest Shackleton also could fall into the latter "hero" category. I think it was very brave that he testifed against the steamship companies at the British Inquiry, and laid the blame for the disaster at their feet. His expeditions were funded by wealthy Britons. By agreeing to testify he placed his own interests at risk. Too many others would have been afraid to do that. Notably, Shackleton became a hero, in terms of his bravery and specific deeds to save others lives, too, during his incredible 1915 Antarctic expedition.

I admire independent people who think for themselves, and that have the fortitude to stand up to the wealthy and powerful when they feel something is morally wrong. Often, this requires great courage, sacrifice and humility. These heroes aren't necessarily political, religious or from any particular economic strata. Whatever they do changes their lives dramatically, often for the worse. But these rare people are out there; you will find them among our neighbors, co-workers, friends and relatives -- maybe even in yourselves.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Humble City! Wow, Inger, that was great. It was interesting to see the comparison of Titanic with the 911 thingy and the heroes and heroines there. Everything you posted, is how I have felt about people in all of this. How many heroes are left out in counts or ceremonies? When a person is paid to stay, does that make them less or more of a hero than one who is not? Wow, that was simply great. And I loved the poem. I think that when we share our heroes with each other it helps us to see Titanic and its aftermath in a whole other light.

I agree with Randy. Beautiful. Wish I'd written it. hehehehehehe
Thanks.
Maureen
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Thank you for the very kind and generous words. One thing I’d like to do is ‘absent’ myself from any authorial presence should I ever have the opportunity to relate this story in full (a concept my post-structuralist proffs at Uni would perhaps sneer at). It’s the tale, not the teller, that is important here. I have no part of it — he speaks most eloquently for himself when given the opportunity to do so, through his own recorded words and actions.

I generally avoid appellations such as ‘hero’ like the plague, if not least because it’s not a particularly useful or descriptive term — it’s far too vague, and our definitions would vary far too much. We could get into endless quibbling discussions over whose actions constituted heroism, whether the taint of self-interest diminishes that heroism (and to what degree if so), and where the lines between duty and heroism blur and blend. At what point does doing one’s job become an act of heroism? These aren’t easy questions to answer, and the responses would be deeply personal. As I stated above, Moody appeals to me as an heroic figure not only for the actions he took on the night of the sinking, but for the way in which he lived his entire life. His was not only a physical courage — it was a moral courage as well.

But there were many more heroes that night that will never be known, their stories as lost as the records of their deeds. Senan Molony’s book brought a few lesser known figures and tales to wider circulation — among the Irish steerage passengers, both during and after the sinking, there were men and woman who also ran the range of heroism physical and moral.

I agree with Maureen that it’s interesting to compare who our heroes are — if for nothing else, identifying who these individuals are and why we perceive them as heroic reveals as much about ourselves and our values as it does about the people we admire. I’d be very hard pressed to identify personal heroes or role models — while there are many figures in history that I find fascinating, I dislike labeling them as I find it limiting.

One thing I’ve come to accept is that the concept of duty, our idea of which is not exactly what it was in 1912, still has power. In the first World War duty — to a cause, to a king, to a kaiser, to a country — was shaken and questioned and would never be quite the same. The pre-war era, with its unquestioning acceptance of duty as a virtue, seems rather naive (particularly now in a later era and later wars). And yes, it’s right that we question it. Some, however, have become too cynical, feeling that it’s an old-fashioned virtue that more properly belongs to the boy scouts. But I feel duty still has value, as does sacrifice.

In The Lion in Winter there’s an exchange between Richard and Geoffrey of Brittany. ‘You chivalrous fool,’ Geoffrey tells his brother, asking how it could matter how someone dies — one is just as dead. Richard responds ‘When the dying is all there is, it matters’. There are men and women on the Titanic who might have felt that, not because they wished to die (I’m absolutely certain James Moody didn’t suffer from a martyr complex). And there were passengers on a doomed flight who seized back some part of the lives that had been taken from them. The dying was all that was left to them, so they ensured that it mattered.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Another thought is the ones who knew versus the ones who did not know what was happening. "When the dying is all there is, it matters!"

Two doomed flights may have been clueless of their flights fate. A third thought if they did what they were told, it would be okay. The fourth knew. All died. And yes,"... dying was all that was left to them, so they ensured that it mattered."

Insightful stuff Inger. I appreciate your ability to ping at the heart of things. I still have a hard time saying what I feel and you give me words. I often wonder now how many Titanic folks simply worked their way back into society and never spoke of it, but deep inside had their own "heroes". I try hard not to talk about 911.

Its funny, I've worked on some ugly things in my lifetime and you are right, it was all job related. No band. No ticker tape parade. If you once share and shed one tear....to some, they feel that it did not happen to you, so get over it. Others feel that you are paid to do this stuff, so get over it. Others feel that it is a personal problem, get over it. Others feel that you are out of reality, everyone says they were there and were not, get over it. It couldn;t have been that bad! So I feel for the survivors, the rescuers and the recovery people...cause unless anyone has been there or can relate in some way, they simply do not understand or care.

In whole towns there were no people to go to for help cause everyone was experiencing the same pain when Titanic went down. There are towns where everyone lost someone on 911, where do they go to get away?

Martyr complex. Hmmmmmm....don't think I suffer from that malady, but here is a thought. My purpose in staying throughout many of these sorts of things is not because I feel that I am the best "man" for the job, but becuase I can do this task and I am expendible whereas I prefer that someone else more valuable get the chance to be saved as they will need to rebuild. Lowe was good at sailing without trinkets (and I am not saying that Moody wasn't), perhaps Moody felt that Lowe had the best chance and was humble and did not regard himself as critical to the next phase of the mission but knew he could finish up where he was figuring to catch a ride at the last. Just a thought.
Maureen.

But let me tell you, never, never completely trust those boy scouts. hehehehehehehehehehe
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I wish I knew what motivated Moody to say he'd 'find some other boat'...perhaps he fully intended to do so, but was so involved in the next immediate task and the next and the next until time was gone and he found himself treading dark water nearly three miles deep. Or perhaps he had intended to leave in 16 (as Lowe instructed him to do so, according to Scarrott), but he was directed by Wilde or another senior to work on the starboard side. Perhaps, as a strong swimmer, he thought he could save himself. Too many possibilities to ever know exactly why events unfolded as they did. His family tried to find the answers in 1912, but there were none to be had.

Had Moody left in 16 while Lowe left in 14, working together they might have made an even more effective job of organising the lifeboats and pulling survivors out of the water. Moody was adept in small boat handling - he was trained very specifically in it, and had a good deal of experience. But on the other hand, that would have meant Murdoch was short an officer when trying to load the aft starboard boats and Collapsible A...what lives might that have cost?

You're right that some people are denied the chance to be heroes or anything else - many passengers and crew were simply victims, with little or no chance to be anything else, and perhaps not even any real knowledge of what was unfolding around them until it was too late.

I was out at Greenwich lugging a visiting mate over the Maritime Museum ('Must see Nelson's bloody stained coat and britches!'). The Nelson exhibition there is interesting and in many ways very challenging - it examines the man's flaws as well as his virtues, and concludes by asking the question very bluntly 'do we still need heroes?' It's not a simple one - we still turn to the cult of celebrity, but the focus of our adulation is more likely to be a singer or actor. Our Nelsons, Wellingtons and Washingtons are more likely to be Harrison Fords and Madonnas - we follow their lives with the same avid interest we once followed national military and political figures.

But in times of crisis - like those we face now - we turn to something more elemental. To those who perform feats of physical and moral courage. Racing up a tower when others are fleeing for their lives, for example, or a man who could launch a lifeboat with a bright smile and the words 'good luck!' while they remain behind on deck. There could be any number of reasons for this - a need to redeem something good and shining and pure in the human spirit in the midst of pure evil and destruction...a need to seek some sort of karmic balance to the chaos of the universe (light must balance the dark)...a need to re-empower ourselves after the devestating disempowerment of tragedy and death on a vast scale, allowing us in a sense to perform vicariously through the heroic deeds of others. I don't know - these are bigger questions than I can even frame properly, let alone answer.

But I do believe that there are some individuals - though as flawed and humanly weak as we all are, no doubt - whose actions and character can redeem something from the darkest events.
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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Good post, Inger. Touching on something you mentioned, the adulation of singers and actors, it is common to lionize athletes in the US, as in referring to "football heroes". Much has been written about such athletes who have proven to be only too human, with flaws and frailties, such as those arrested for drug use and domestic abuse. Many people believe such athletes have let children down by such behavior. While in no way condoning such behavior, I think more of the fault lies in holding up such people as role models for children in the first place. There is nothing "heroic" about simply possessing athletic skill; it gives no indication whatsoever about that person's character. These people are merely entertainers, as are singers and actors.

People seem to have forgotten that the most important role models children can have are their own parents. Secondarily, we need the old fashioned types of heroes and heroines, the ones who have actually done something to help human beings as a whole, or particular individuals. Some have stated that those in dangerous jobs, such as the firefighters who died on 9/11, are not heroes/heroines because they were just doing their jobs, but I submit that people who take such jobs are heroes/heroines for merely taking such jobs in the first place, knowing the possible hazards they face and sacrifices they might be called upon to make to help others.
 
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Prudence Magnon

Guest
I would like to share with you a true story of braveness: passenger Manuel E. Uruchurtu gave his seat on lifeboat #9 to Miss. Ramell, an English lady who claimed to have a husband and son waiting for her in NY.

Mr. Uruchurtu gave her the seat with only one condition, that she had to visit his wife and seven kids in Mexico to give them his love, a letter and to tell them what happened. Turns out that Miss Ramell had no husband nor son, but indeed went to fulfill her promise and visited the wealthy Mexican family.

You can check his bio in this website. I am in total awe. Gestures like these remind me of my Grandfather and the old school manners. So breath-taking.

I praise this man for being so brave and giving up his already-secured seat knowing of his sure death. Bravo!
 

James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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i would like to add word about the postal clerks bravery seening as (what i think)just 1 of them made it to deck and the rest perished while trying to get mail to the boats.
 

Don Tweed

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Mar 30, 2006
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I think the untold and unknown heroes below decks are real heroes.
The stories are unknown and so untold, and never will be.
You can only speculate on what may have taken place in certain areas of the ship where no one survived.
Can you picture two members of the "black gang" sharing a hidden bottle, toasting their health and families, and waiting for the end?

I can.

Respectfully, Don
 
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John Meeks

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I absolutely and totally agree with Don.

...and you can apply the experiences of those men to their colleagues who were involved any sinking that occurred before, or since...

Regards

John M
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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One hero that never seems to be mentioned by name is Peter Sloan, the Chief Electrician. One hears of Joseph Bell and rightly so, but Sloan seems to be overlooked.
 

James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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i agree with you there.can you tell me if this story of chief engineneer Bells death?he went to his death with a smile and the cry "no lads,my extra weight would sink it".its in Dave Brycesons book The Titanic Disaster its about newspapers that wrote about the disaster.the boat Bell was been implored by some crewmen to climb upon is probably boat B (if this stories true)it does not say who reported this but can you tell me if its true?
 

Beth Barber

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Jun 7, 2001
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Hey Tracy - I would have to agree totally with what you said. Some people have attached a "hero" status to many celebrities/sports people etc... While some of them have had many accomplishments to be proud of - they are just humans like the rest of us. (except famous!lol)

The people who are in high risk jobs like policemen, firemen, etc.... I agree they are already heroes for choosing the careers they did, they have made a pledge to put others ahead of themselves. I applaud them all!! Just a short note about a personal Hero story. My little brother, David, is a "volunteer" fireman in a small town in Pa. Year before last, a week before thanksgiving, the home he shared with his wife and 7 kids (between the 2 of them) caught on fire in the middle of the night (this was a house they were renting) and my brother got out his wife and 5 of the kids easily. He went back into the house that was totally engulfed in flames to save 2 of the boys. The 3rd time he went in - he didn't come out - the local fire dept had finally made it there and they pulled him out of the house at the top of the stairs inside - he had 3rd degree burns over 50% of his body. The 2 boys died in the fire and my brother almost did trying his best to save them. Its been a year and a half and my brother has recovered tremendously. In my opinion (and a lot of others) - he is a Hero! Some people would say that because they were part of his family (stepsons) and the fact that he was a fireman - he was just doing his job. I am sure his instincts kicked in but he would have done the same in any other situation.

There were many many heroes involving Titanic (and 911) - many we will never know. I applaud them all too!!

- Beth
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patrick toms

Guest
I consider my grandfather andrew john shannon who came from cobh co cork,and was on the ship under the name of lionel leonard,to be a hero as he was the man who held the baby in his arms,as seen in the film a night to remember,a very sad portrayal of a fact which i know as some of the survivors spoke to my grandmother about it and said that was the last they saw of him,in turn my grandmother told me.
pat toms president shannon ulster titanic society