Mrs Wassūf Ibrāhīm (Sāfiyah Hālūt-Mariyam) was born in Shwayhad, Syria on 10 February 1894.
She was the daughter of Ibrāhīm Hālūt and Mariyam Ibrāhīm but was orphaned whilst still young and went to live with her married sister in Ayn al-Rāhib. She was married at a young age to Wassūf Ibrāhīm Hālūt (b. 15 June 1887), also a native of her village, and the couple had a daughter Zakīyah, on 9 August 1908.
The couple decided to emigrate to Pennsylvania where Sāfiyah already had family, including two brothers. Sāfiyah and Wassūf, leaving their daughter in the care of family, continued onward to the USA where, at Ellis Island in New York, Sāfiyah was refused entry due to a contagious eye infection and was ordered to return to Syria. On the advice of relatives already in America she went to Trinidad and spent time there before trying to re-enter the USA in 1911. Again refused permission because of her eye condition she returned to Syria and in early 1912 again made plans to enter the USA. In the meantime Sāfiyah's husband Wassūf had settled in Greensburg, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania where he gained employment the Kelly & Jones iron and brass works.
Sāfiyah left Syria and travelled from Beirut to Marseille then on to Cherbourg where she boarded the Titanic as a third class passenger (ticket number 2657 which cost £7, 4s, 7d). She was destined for Greensburg, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania where her husband and other family were living.
On the night of the sinking Sāfiyah was in bed and, following the collision, left her cabin and joined scores of other confused steerage passengers who were wandering around the public areas waiting for instructions. She eventually found her way to the upper decks and was possibly rescued in collapsible C although contemporary newspaper interviews with her were highly embellished accounts, with details of passengers being shot, boats being overturned, etc. In later years she recalled that she witnessed the ship sliding beneath the sea and the lights going out, the cries of those left behind being a sound which still haunted her.
Upon arrival in New York Sāfiyah was taken to St Vincent's Hospital for recuperation and given monetary assistance and travel allowance to complete her journey to Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She reached Greensburg where her brother awaited her. Her husband Wassūf had reportedly been unaware that she was aboard Titanic.
To assimilate to their new home Wassūf and Sāfiyah Ibrāhīm became Joseph and Sophie Abraham and on 4 October 1913 they welcomed a son, Zackie Halaut. Their daughter Zakīyah had, in the meantime, married, becoming Mrs Nador and settled in Trinidad and raised a large family. She was reportedly not reunited with her parents until 1947 and she eventually died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1994. Sophie would outlive both her husband and son Zackie who died in 1952 and 1975 respectively.
Sophie herself never cared much to discuss the Titanic disaster but did give a rare newspaper interview to the Greensburg-Herald Tribune on 14 April 1967. She was a member of St Michael's Orthodox Church and the church's lady's guild.
Sophie Abraham died on 11 December 1976 aged 82 and is buried in Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Greensburg.
Phillip Gowan, USA
Greensburg Herald Tribune (Pennsylvania) 22 April 1912
Greensburg Tribune-Review (Pennsylvania) 13 December 1976
Leila Saloum Elias (2011) The Dream and then the Nightmare: the Syrians who boarded the Titanic; Atlas, ISBN 978-9933-9086-1-4
Articles and Stories
North American (1912)
Greensburg Tribune-Review (1976)
Greensburg Herald Tribune (1912)