HARROWING TALE OF SCENES ON TITANIC BY MISS DOWDELL

Hudson Dispatch

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Many Men Sacrificed Their Lives in Forming Human Ladder to Help Women and Children to the Lifeboats---To Prevent Frantic Women from Hearing the Shrieks of Their Loved Ones, Those in the Boats Sank [sic], "We Parted on the Shore"---Sighting the Carpathia, They Sang "Pull For the Shore, Sailors"---Many of the Rescued Went Insane---Family of Nine Joined Hands and Went Down Together.
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Miss Elizabeth Dowdell, of 215 Park avenue, Union Hill, one of the Titanic's passengers mentioned in yesterday's issue of the Hudson Dispatch, was willing to relate some of the stories connected with her experience in the greatest sea tragedy of the world's history to one of the Dispatch reporters last evening after recovering from her nervous condition.

"It is all to [sic] great for me to realize," said Miss Dowdell. "To think of it! I am one of the few fortunate ones who have lived through all the many horrors while at sea, and thank God for His mercy which He showered upon me to give me strength in rescuing little Virginia Emanuel who was with me.

Miss Dowdell, a faithful nurse for the six-year-old daughter of Mrs. Estelle Emanuel, a well known opera singer, residing at 629 West 115th street, New York city, contemplated an enjoyable trip with the child whose care was entrusted to her. Virginia's mother is in very poor health at the present time, and owing to a contract made with one of London's most prominent theatrical troupes, she has determined to spend several months in England. Fearing and realizing that perhaps death may come to her sooner than may be expected, she decided that Virginia should be placed in the guardianship of her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Wheil, of Manhattan, who would provide for her daughter's happiness.

"We were delayed on special train to reach the Titanic in the time we had planned, and feared we would miss it. However, we arrived just in time for the gateman to remark, 'You're lucky to have caught it.'

"The voyage up to the time of the disaster had been a delightful one. We had enjoyed very fine weather and the sea was quite calm. Many of the passengers seemed to enjoy the sun's rays that Sunday afternoon. Toward evening it grew colder, and at night it was almost too cold to be out on deck at all.

"I was just about to sleep when I was awakened by the crash," continued Miss Dowdell. "An officer of the second cabin was heard rapping at the doors and advising the passengers to prepare.

"Get hold of a life belt, ladies,' he said.

"'Is there any danger?' I heard some one ask.

"'I fear there is, madam,' he replied.

"With those words I aroused little Virginia from her sleep and dressed her in just the same manner as I had for that glorious Sunday afternoon. I then hastily threw on a few clothes and a heavy gray sweater and started for the deck. I was surprised to find that there was no great excitement.

"The few who had gathered on the deck when Virginia and I reached there came up similarly to inquire what had happened that the engines stopped, but there really wasn't much anxiety in the minds of any of us. We never surmised that we were in much danger, nor did we have any conception that the Titanic had been pierced by the submerged iceberg. I noticed that several men in the smoking room were enjoying a game of cards. The had been playing all afternoon and seemed little disturbed by the jar which the steamer received.

"Little by little we felt the ship sinking. Everything seemed calm, considering the great danger we were encountering. A few moments later I heard an officer call, ‘Let the ladies pass to the deck below.’ I noticed that the covers were lifted from the boats and the crews allotted to them lowering them by the pulley blocks into the water.

"It was pitiful watching the men who had to remain in absolute silence on deck, leaving their wives, sweethearts, sisters and children to face and battle with the danger without their aid. We, however, noticed in the darkness of the night---for there wasn't any moonlight---boats slipping quietly away, followed by other boats which were lowered. Finally the cries and moanings were heard more distinctly, for up to this time we slowly realized the fate we had met. Virginia and I were pushed in the throng hoping that we would be rescued.

"Those shrieks from the women whose husbands were torn away from them, or where husband and wife were not ready to leave each other, but wait until death would part them, are still piercing my ears," sadly spoke Miss Dowdell. "Some of the women were hurled into the boats through the panic which had arisen. Much should be said for the noble and heroic acts of part of the men, and should ever remain in the reminiscences of the history of the world. Many a social leader or man of wealth grasped hold of the limbs of a laborer and sacrificed his life just to form the human ladder where woman and child escaped from perishing.

"Oh, it was mournful," continued the survivor. "You folks cannot realize what an awful, dreadful sensation it wa sto [sic] have stood on deck, which was some seventy feet from the level of the sea and call for help, receiving no response, for the screaming of the many hundreds deadened any message that was delivered from perhaps a mother, wife or sweetheart from her beloved one from above. One by one the boats were filled with sobbing women and children, lowered and drifted away. Boat No. 13 was then lowered. By this time the people acted like maniacs. I myself was ready to fight for life. A gentleman of refinement and culture with whom I became slightly acquainted, seemed to show much attention to little Virginia, and at several occasions during our voyage had treated her very kindly.

"With Virginia in my arms, I was fairly pushed headlong, and was just about going to take the step which meant life or death when I noticed this same gentleman gasping and in a desperate condition. As soon as he saw Virginia he braced up and said, "See here, little girl; step on my face and be saved.' It was a noble act on his part, for he was dying as he said those few last words.

"I will never forget him," cried Miss Dowdell, "for her did die nobly. Virginia was snatched away from me, but I prayed mercifully for her, and thank God that one man cried, 'Let her have her child,' which saved me from perhaps meeting the depths of the great sea, for I would have gone with Virginia. She was placed in my care and I felt in the moment of distress that I was responsible for her safety.

"There were about seventy passengers aboard our boat. We were but ten feet above the water when we noticed immediately below our boat was the exhaust of the condensers. Just above the water line a huge stream of water came rushing from the ship's side. We became anxious, for we feared we would be swamped by the rush of water when we touched the level of the sea. Down, down we went. The force of the swell of the sea carried us directly under boat No. 14, and it was fortunate for us that we weren't crushed to death, for she was swinging above our heads. One of the men, however, managed to cut the ropes in time to escape the drop of No. 14 over our heads. As we rowed away from that monster Titanic we gazed upon it continually. We were now about two miles from her and continued to row. It was pitiful to listen to and watch the anxious women in our boat who were hoping to meet their loved ones on the ship who would take them to safety. It was bitter cold, and most of us were numb and frozen from the manner in which we were dressed.

"About two o'clock that morning we could notice the Titanic settling very rapidly, with the bows and the bridge completely under water. In a few moments she was devoured by the great waters of the ocean.

"Oh, it was an awful scene. These women and children whose every strength and vigor had been used to brace up and hope and pray that they would meet again, were now left to witness the doom of their helpless men.

"It was a bitter moment, which was followed by a noise which I shall never forget---the shrieking and cries of the hundreds of our friends---for friends we were, after all, helping each other any way we could---struggling in the frozen waters---and yet we could not answer them. Several of the people suggested that we should sing which would keep the women from hearing these mournful groans, and it was with much effort that we sang, 'And We Parted on the Shore.' We watched for the steamer's lights until we were exhausted. Ladies tore some of the fragments which clothed them and lighted them as signals for help. Presently low down on the horizon we noticed lights, which were none other but those of the Carpathia. With that the song 'Pull for the Shore, Boys' was sung. Although sad in spirit, it was the gratitude which we felt that we joined in the chorus of weak voices. Rich and poor, learned and ignorant, all were alike among us survivors. There weren't any rich---we were all poor. Furniture, costly and rare, gowns and luxuries belonging to the wealthy were floating along the waters and finally swallowed by the waters.

"Many a proud, haughty, wealthy woman was only too glad to receive help. Women sewed blankets into garments and did all in their power to help us on board the Carpathia.

"The saddest of the whole voyage was on board the Cunarder, it seems to me," continued Miss Dowdell. "You realize there was hope for all, that their fellow men would meet them, but to think that the Carpathia was taking us further and further away from the perished was beyond endurance. The many pitiful tales which were related are beyond describing. We hated to gaze upon the waters of the sea. One woman with whom I became acquainted on board the Carpathia was a Mrs. Abbott. This woman was the only survivor of one of the two boats which capsized. She hung to the boat for five hours in spite of the arctic temperature. Three men likewise hung to the boat and pleaded that God would save them.

"One man took his kerchief and waved it as a distress signal for help. From the exposure they became frozen and numb and dropped off the boats like icicles, after crying and sobbing for help.

"There was a family of nine, and a happy family they seemed to be, who joined hands and faced death together. Many people appeared half insane. One woman created quite some sensation. Her two sons and husband were drowned in the disaster. This, it is believed, caused her to become weak mentally. She was presented with a beautiful steamer rug as a farewell gift on her departure at Southampton, and everyone on the steamship Carpathia was cross examined, as it were, by this woman as to the whereabouts of her rug, which, had she not been mentally affected, would have told her had met the same fate as did the many hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of luxuries. It was indeed a sad case.

"Several Chinamen were clever in wrapping themselves snugly into blankets and thereby escaping and joined the women and children who had been saved. One Swedish girl and her lover had planned to make this trip, intending to become united in marriage in America. The sweetheart was saved, but the lover now lies in the sea. Another woman that I remember seeing on several occasions previous to the catastrophe lost both husband and child. Her actions were those of a maniac, and officers were obliged to lock her in a room for fear she would have done something desperate.

"I have crossed the ocean several times and travelled quite some, but in all my experience I have never met such a combination of superstitious people as were found among the passengers of the Titanic. We thought it but a joke at the time when arriving at Queenstown to have heard three sailors remark, 'They would not continue their contemplated voyage on board the Titanic, for they had a dreadful fear of some disaster.' They got off at this stop and bade us farewell. But how true it was, after all. Oh, there are so many stories to relate that to me it seems as though I were in a dream."

Miss Dowdell was a brave young woman, and though somewhat nervous from her dreadful experience, who looked remarkably well last evening. "Virginia is suffering from a dreadful cold," said the nurse; "in fact, almost all the survivors have colds and coughs."

She is a member of St. Augustine's Parish, Union Hill.

Related Biographies:

Elizabeth Dowdell
Virginia Ethel Martin

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