The ship of dreams
As the clock struck 7. 00 we could hear the faint sound of the ships horn, dinner had been announced. Anna, Gretchen and I got dressed in our eveningwear, touched up our make up and headed down to the dining room. I remember very clearly what I was wearing that night. A pale blue sleeveless dress made out of very heavy material with embroided roses around the hemline. I was also wearing a matching shawl and pale blue shoes. I loved this particular dress as William bought it for me the very same week he passed away. As we walked down the grand wooden staircase, the smell of dinner was divine.
We were escorted to a table next to a window where already a couple were seated. I looked out on the horizon and saw nothing but the great Atlantic Ocean. The dining room was magnificent. The crisp cream tablecloth draped over the wooden tables matched the napkins folded into swans, which matched the curtain ties. The string quartet played lively music in the corner of the room. All the waiters looked extremely smart with gelled back hair and matching tuxedos. The chandeliers overhead caught the sunlight and reflected all the colors of the rainbow and everybody and everything looked so beautiful.
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The couple opposite were obviously on their honeymoon. Everybody on board, on course recognized the young brides, we had watched them laughing and promenading with their husbands. We offered our congratulations to the couple and they very happily accepted them. The bride asked why we were travelling on the Titanic so Gretchen explained how we had gone over to visit her husband, George in England as he was doing some business over there. It turned out that Mary’s brother was working on the same film as George so that was a talking point. We chatted merrily all the way through dinner.
Mary and James were a very lovely couple and Gretchen was certainly glad of some company of her own age to talk to. After a very enjoyable dinner Anna, Gretchen and I took a stroll around the decks watching the sunset. Little were we to know that was the last sunlight we would see whilst aboard the Titanic. Anna and Gretchen wanted to join in with the evening dance but I didn’t feel up to it so said I would meet them back at the cabin. When walking back along the promenade deck, the air was icy cold. This change in temperature had only occurred with in the last hour.
I had suddenly come down with a headache so when I returned to the cabin I changed into my nightwear. The doctor said it was best if I got an early night so I went to bed. I woke up at 11. 30pm and both Anna and Gretchen were in their bedrooms. My headache had disappeared and I wasn’t tired anymore after my nap so I decided to read my book. Just as I was slowly drifting away, I was sharply awakened by this terrible shudder. My fists were tightly holding on to my bedpost and the shaking lasted approximately 1 minute. It gave me the impression that a blow on the side had moved the entire vessel laterally to a considerable angle.
My instincts told me that we had hit an iceberg, there was no other explanation. Wearing only my nightwear and slippers, I went through the companionway, but to my surprise, found no one seriously considering the shock. Men in evening clothes stood about chatting and laughing, and when an officer hurried by I asked, “What is the trouble? ” he replied nervously “um, something wrong, something is wrong with the propeller, nothing serious, don’t worry madam”. He didn’t sound very convincing so I asked two other officers but was reassured that everything was fine.
A little while later, still feeling nervous, I went to the promenade deck and there saw a great mass of ice close to the starboard rail. When returning to my cabin again, I met with my day steward and it was he who finally informed me that the Titanic was in danger and I was to report to the boat deck with a lifebelt. I rushed back to my stateroom where Anna and Gretchen were getting dressed as both had been awakened by the impact of the jar. I told them we were in danger so we all got dressed, put on our fur coats and headed to the boat deck. Up on deck everything seemed quiet and orderly.
The thing that scared me most was that there was no sense of fear or panic. I knew in the bottom of my heart that the Titanic had received its death wound yet no one else had the slightest realization. There was an order issued that all women and children should congregate on the port side of the vessel. I supposed all the women were congregated on the port side as it would naturally be the highest side, therefore the safest as it would be last to go down. At this point there were only upper class people on the decks so obviously the steerage had been told not to come up yet.
They started to lower the lifeboats after a lapse of some minutes. It was a drop of fifty feet to the surface of the sea and apparently everybody considered that they were safer on the ‘unsinkable Titanic’ than in a small boat whose only propelling power was four oars. It was for that reason alone why the first boats were only half filled. I believe there were 20 life boats lowered away altogether. It was after the fifth or sixth boat was lowered and there was a definite slope to the ship that people understood that they were no longer safe and began to panic.
When the steerage passengers came up many of them had knifes and revolvers and were stabbing left and right in an endeavour to reach a boat. This brought a lot of fright and terror to the atmosphere. As we were waiting to get into a boat I saw across the other side a steerage passenger being shot as he tried to jump onto a boat. The crowd fell silent with shock and his body was tossed over board. That is an image I could never forget. Anna, Gretchen and I were helped aboard the seventh boat to be lowered, which turned out to be lifeboat 10. There was some problem lowering it so we sat there for a while.
We then saw Mary and James, the couple we had eaten dinner with only hours ago when everything seemed fine. We summoned Mary to join us in the boat. She refused in a very determined manner to leave her husband, although she was twice entreated to get into the boat. James declined with great force to get in the boat while there were still women on the decks. Owing to the angle of the sinking ship, another boat was being lowered almost directly above us. If it had not been for our yells and shrieks, both boats would have fallen into the water, but our cries saved us from the catastrophe.
When we got out on the water I was so annoyed with the amount of crewmen on the boat. We realized that they only claimed they could row for the purpose of saving themselves, in the end my niece had to take an oar. When we were only a few metres away I could see for myself the severity of the collision as the bottom half and the front of the ship was completely covered by the Atlantic Ocean. In a boat alongside of ours, a sailor lighted a cigarette and flung the match carelessly among the women in our boat. We screamed in protest to which he replied, ‘Ah, we’re all going to die anyway, we might as well be cremated now as then’.
We were all so shocked by this attitude. When we were rowing away the front of the ship was being dragged under the water leaving the back deck well over 400 feet above the surface of the sea. At this point the ship was nearly vertical. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for those passengers left hanging at the top, seeing the world at right angles and watching objects like tables and chairs flying down the deck. From the upper rails I could see husbands and fathers waving and throwing kisses to their loved ones.
I started crying when I saw people jumping off from the top. It is terrible things to see when people choose to jump such a deadly drop, as they have no other option except drown to death. We were a mile away from the Titanic when there was great explosion. It had appeared to me as if the boilers had blown up and the Titanic had been lifted in amidships and broken in half. It was then that the ships lights cut out and we could no longer clearly see what happened. Only one of all the boats set adrift from our side had a lantern.
We had to follow that boat as did many other boats and if it wasn’t for that solitary lantern, possibly many of the other boats might have drifted away and gone down. The most terrible part of the whole experience was the awful crying after the ship went. Our boat was silent with shock, as it seemed to last for ages. The temperature that night could only have been a couple degrees over freezing so we all cuddled together for extra warmth. I felt so scared sat in that boat, sat in the middle of the ocean in the pitch black not knowing if I went to sleep if I would ever wake up again.
We sat there for hours not moving saying the occasionally sentence between us. It is strange how I felt we had really bonded as a group and become quite close even though we didn’t really talk. I think it is because even without telling each other we knew exactly how everybody else was feeling. As the sun was rising, the sight of the Carpathia in the distance brought such relieve to the group. As we drew closer I could hear moans of disappointed wives waiting for their husbands to arrive. When we were welcomed aboard too much cannot be said for the kindness shown by the Carpathia passengers.
They gave up their staterooms for us and let us borrow their clothes. In fact I left the ship wearing garments owned by a very kind middle-aged women, Catherine who was married and had 3 children. I am sad to say though, that although we never gave up hope waiting for Mary and James they never arrived and we never saw them again. I later found out that both went down with the ship. Six months have passed since that terrible night and it has deeply affected me. So many innocent lives were lost that night and for what, so we could make a good time crossing the Ocean.
Everybody put so much hope and belief in that wretched ship, as it was said to be unsinkable. What I don’t understand though is why they only put enough lifeboats on the ship to save less than half the amount of people. I don’t trust anything that is published in the media nowadays and I am certainly not going to be leaving my country again. The Titanic was renamed the Ship of Dreams by many of the papers, and many believed it was when first stepping on. It is that name that hurts the most as the truth is that the Titanic destroyed so many of those dreams.