by Marie G. Young - A Survivor of the Titanic
Miss Marie G. Young,
Former Music Teacher at the White House,
Rescued From the Titanic,
Describes the Sufferings of Some of the Survivors
Six months have elapsed since the Titanic -- the most splendid of all passenger ships sank in the North Atlantic Ocean, in sight of fifteen boatloads of survivors, numbering less than a third of the passengers and crew who had embarked at her three ports of call.
Perhaps no two survivors would answer alike the question. "What is your most poignant memory of the fatal voyage, and of its fifth and final night?"
A panorama of incidents passes before the mind -- trivial events ordinarily, but rendered tragic because of the death of many who sailed on the Titanic, but who never heard the eager roll call of the Carpathia . What became of the merry group of boys who were beside me, in the telegraph office at the dock at Cherbourg, hurrying off last messages to friends on shore?
Who can forget the cruel change in the faces of those who waved gay farewells as the tender left the French harbor, and 'ere they again sighted land, had yielded up all that made life beautiful to them?
Figures, faces and even varying facial expressions are remembered of those, who though strangers, were fellow passengers, beloved of many ashore to whom even our fading impressions and slight knowledge would be a consolation, should the paths of our lives ever cross.
In my thoughts I often lie again in my steamer chair, and watch the passing throng on the Titanic's promenade deck. After the usual excitement of buying lace from the Irish girls who came aboard at Queenstown, was over, the routine of life on deck was established. Two famous men passed many times every day in a vigorous constitutional, one talking always -- as rapidly as he walked -- the other a good and smiling listener.
Babies and nurses, dear old couples, solitary men, passed sunlit hours of those spring days on deck, while the Titanic swept on to the scene of the disaster; approaching what might not have been so much a sinister fate awaiting her, as it was an opportunity for her commander and the President of the White Star Line to prove true steamanship and their great discretion in the presence of reported and recognized peril.
It so happened that I took an unusual interest in some of the men below decks, for I had talked often with the carpenter and the printer, in having extra crates and labels made for the fancy French poultry we were bringing home, and I saw a little of the ship's life, in my daily visits to the gaily crowing roosters, and to the hens, who laid eggs busily, undismayed by the novelty and commotion of their surroundings.
I had seen the cooks before their great cauldrons of porcelain, and the bakers turning out the huge loaves of bread, a hamper of which was later brought on deck, to supply the life boats.
In accepting some gold coins, the ship's carpenter said, "It is such a good luck to receive gold on a first voyage!" Yet he was the first of the Titanic's martyrs, who, in sounding the ship just after the iceberg was struck, sank and was lost in the inward rushing sea that engulfed him."
Who can imagine the earthly purgatory of anguish endured by Captain Smith, during the pitifully short time vouchsafed him to prepare for death -- whose claim upon him, he, more than all others, must acknowledge?
Who exchanged a last word with any of the joyous bridal couples, to whom each day at sea had brought a deeper glow of happiness? Expectant, they stood at the threshold of earthly life, yet they passed together that night through the gates of Eternity, to a fairer day than that which dawned for those left to face an unknown fate.
What scenes were enacted to immortalize forever the engineers who kept the ship lighted, and afloat, giving a last chance of escape to passengers and even officers? How can we ever realize what it meant to find courage to reject the thought of beloved dependents on shore, and to face death in stoke-hold and engine room?
The "greater love" that lays down life that another may live burned in many a heart in the Titanic's list of dead, and those who survive owe them a debt, only to be acknowledged and wiped out by a flawless record of lives nobly lived, because so cruelly bought.
Vivid and endless are the impressions of that great night. They remain as closely folded in the brain as the shock of the discharge of guns, the cries of the drowning and the sobs of the broken hearted.
Clearest of all is the remembrance of the eighteen self-controlled women in our boat (Number 8), four of whom had parted, bitterly protesting, from their husbands.
In those hours spent face to face with the solemn thoughts of trials still to undergo, before possible rescue, it was inspiring to see that these Twentieth Century women were, in mentality and physique, worthy descendants of their ancestors, who had faced other dire perils in Colonial and Revolutionary periods. Women rowed all night, others in the bow waved the lantern light in air as a signal to the ship, toward whose light our boat crept slowly till dawn, with only a young girl at the tiller to keep the boat headed straight in spite of the jerky, uneven rowing.
Treasured above all else was the electric light in the handle of a cane belonging to Mrs. J. Stuart White, who waved it regularly while counting strokes for the haphazard crew.
The assurance that its light would burn continuously for thirty hours helped comfort many minds, aghast at the possibility of another night to be endured before rescue. We had no knowledge of wireless response to the Titanic's frantic calls for help, nor of the glorious rush through the sea of ice which was bringing near the fearless little Carpathia . If we, the survivors, spent a night of exhausting struggle, of emotion, and of prayer, what of the Captain, the crew, and the awakening passengers of the rescue ship?
Nevertheless, we turn to a brighter side of the picture, for hope must have filled all the hearts of those who turned back so promptly at the first distress signal. The United States Senate investigation brought to the world's notice a document containing Captain Rostron's written orders to his officers and crew, a copy of which should be framed on every ship, as a model of perfect organization in time of stress. No detail of careful preparation was omitted. All the reading world knows now, that, after answering the Titanic's wireless appeal, Captain Rostron put an additional officer on the Carpathia 's bridge, doubled his lookouts in the crow's nest, and called out an extra fire room force.
But of his final and complete preparations, enough cannot be said. His three physicians -- English, Italian and Hungarian -- were detailed to look after the different classes of rescued passengers; his lifeboats were supplied with food, medicine and blankets, and they were ready to lower as soon as he should approach the wreck, which alas! he was indeed never to see.
He ordered his own crew to be fed and fortified for the coming hours of strain, and they promised their brave commander to show the world of what stuff the British seaman is made.
His own steerage passengers were placed in closer quarters, and their natural excitement quieted by a few judicious words. And these given instances of careful forethought are but a few, remembered at random, and only a suggestion of the great work accomplished by Captain Rostron in the cause of humanity.
When the Carpathia reached the scene of the disaster, finding fifteen boats, some only half filled, the survivors of the tragedy that had been enacted between the setting and the rising sun were lifted on board, with pity and tenderness almost divine in their gentleness.
The details of the shipwreck, its perils, horrors and racking uncertainties, have filled the magazines and newspapers. but of the wonderful, unique days that followed, little has been said.
Many of the survivors were dazed by the paralyzing events of the night, the shock of collision, and the terror of the realization that their only chance for life was in escaping in the lifeboats. The perilous descent into these boats, their ignorant handling, the immediate sinking of the Titanic, the heartrending cries of the dying, the night spent adrift on the bitterly cold sea, and finally the hazardous ascent in the boatswain's seat from the lifeboat to the Carpathia 's gangway, were all experiences to haunt and tax the most stoical.
For those who had lost members of their families, friends or servants, it was a bitter moment when, at ten o'clock on Monday morning, April 15, Captain Rostron steamed away from the scene of the wreck, leaving two tardy and cruelly negligent steamers to watch the scene of the greatest maritime tragedy.
The day was cold, but brilliant. All morning the Carpathia passed a field of ice, forty miles in length, and extending northward as far as the eye could see.
After food and blankets had been distributed amongst the survivors, their names were carefully noted; then the weary task began, lasting for days, of sending them by wireless to an awestricken, listening, longing world. The Carpathia 's own exhausted operator was relieved by the equally worn-out second operator (Harold Bride) from the Titanic, who had been lifted more dead than alive from the ocean.
Meanwhile, the Carpathia 's sympathetic passengers were sharing rooms and clothing with those rescued; every possible berth was assigned, and all available space in the library and dining saloon used for sleeping quarters. Mattresses were laid on the dining tables, and at night, old and young "made up" beds on the library floors, a most informal proceeding consisting of spreading a folded steamer rug on the florr, with a second rug to sleep under, and, perhaps, if one had luck, a sofa cushion for a pillow.
Such beds were smilingly and uncomplainingly occupied. One bright old lady, who slept thus beside her sister's bed on a bench, called it the "lower berth in the Carpathia Pullman!"
No such makeshift, however, for the President of the White Star Line -- hidden in the English physician's comfortable room, he voyaged to New York, as heedlessly indifferent to the discomfort of his Company's passengers as he had been to the deadly peril that had menaced them. Richer, far, in experience, were those who mingled freely in that ship's company.
There were lessons to be learned in every hour of that voyage. Who could ever forget the splendid work of one young girl, whose father was a missionary? After giving garments of her own to many survivors, she collected more clothing to supply further needs -- she cut out dresses for the many forlorn babies, and spent days ministering to the terrified emigrants of the steerage.
Cruel, indeed was the plight of these foreigners; many of them were young mothers, with wailing babies who refused food -- widowed, penniless, ignorant of the language of an unknown country, they faced the New World. But indeed, the wind was truly tempered to these shorn lambs, for North and South, East and West were gathering together a golden store for their needs on landing and for their future assistance.
The last three days of the voyage were taxing because rain kept the passengers crowded in the library, the wail of the foghorn sounding continuously, strained overwrought nerves, as the Carpathia steered cautiously and slowly toward New York, with her doubly precious freight of human souls.
Many were the experiences and tales of adventures on sea and land exchanged in those penned-in, irksome hours; hot and bitter were the denunciations of the criminal neglect of those whose authority could and should have averted the disaster.
Inevitable were the collections and disagreements over loving cups and votes of thanks, to be presented to the embarrassed, bashful, but truly heroic Captain.
Fire Island! Ambrose Channel! Welcoming sirens of hundreds of tugs, newspaper boats, steamers and yachts! And the lights of New York!
Hardly were the many telegrams from our friends handed us, before we neared the Cunard docks; never was homecoming so sweet, as on that immortal night of nights, when again the world waited, hushed, for the coming epic of abysmal horror, of consuming, unending grief, and of sublime heroism.
Even now, one must doubt whether the terrible lesson to be learned from such an appalling tragedy has been given due consideration by those who govern the courses of the ocean liners. One reads of steamers again venturing over the northerly course, and reporting ice in sight. The captains of the best patronized lines state they would have followed Captain Smith's route, under similar conditions, apparently preferring insane speeding among icebergs, to take a more southerly course.
Almost from the time of the world's creation, men have "gone down to the sea in ships." Human intelligence has labored long to conquer the elements, and today inventive genius seems to triumph over all that vexed the soul and brain of the sturdy adventurers who discovered our land. But man can never be Omnipotent. An unsinkable ship will never cross the sea. Granting that the Titanic was a triumph of construction and appointments, even she could not trespass upon a law of nature, and survive.
Helplessly that beautiful and gallant ship struggled to escape from the hand of God, but was only an atom in the Hold of inexorable justice.
Majestically she sailed; but bowed, broken and crouching, she sank slowly beneath the conquering ocean; a hidden memorial shaft to the unburied dead she carried with her, and to the incredible wickedness of man, until the coming of the day when "there shall be no more sea."