The purpose of this section is to help us understand the Titanic tragedy through the experiences of others. The Titanic not only affected the lives of those who sailed on her, but has also touched the lives of many others. All of the stories told here are true and involve real people. After reading these stories, my hope is that you realize that Titanic was not just a Hollywood movie, but a part of history. I would like to thank those who have decided to share their stories with us and commend them for their willingness to do so. If you have a personal memory about the Titanic and would like to share it, please send me e-mail .
It is recommended that you read through each story. However, if you want to jump to a particular story, click on the corresponding link.
The U.S. Coast Guard
Each year the U. S. Coast Guard drops a wreath at the location of the Titanic wreck. I recently received a letter from a gentleman who was a member of the U. S. Coast Guard and had the honor of laying one of those wreaths. His letter is very moving and a deserving tribute to all who lost their lives on the Titanic. This letter is reproduced with permission from the author.
On a very cold afternoon, April 15, 1982, on the 70th anniversary of Titanic's sinking, the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter I was assigned to made the pilgrimage to the wreck site of Titanic. There, I witnessed a wreath laying by three survivors of Titanic. I remember only their first names: Edith, Catherine, and Robert. Elderly then and I don't think they are alive today. My story:
We departed our home port and headed for the spot. Our mission was to take up "tollbooth station" for the International Ice Patrol. The Ice Patrol was formed in 1913, the year AFTER Titanic sank. With the exception of interruptions by World Wars I and II, there have been no casualties to icebergs in the shipping lanes. To this day, the approach lanes to and from North America are still guarded, under international treaty by forces from Great Britain, Iceland, Canada, and the United States.
We were told that we would take up tollbooth station after a brief dedication ceremony and drop off our passengers at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our three guests were to remain in the Captain's Cabin and we were not allowed to disturb them until it was cleared by the Captain.
Though our transit took three days, every evening, we could see the three guests on the bridge wing, peering out onto the ocean. They kept to themselves, venturing out into the cold for just a few minutes at a time. Our Captain said they were to remain indoors due to their age, because he did not want them to catch cold......made sense.
On the morning of the third day, our three guests gathered before us on our mess deck. There, we were introduced to them and each told their story. Here's a bit of what I can remember:
Catherine: I remember the ship.....it was grand.....I remember being put into the lifeboat with my mother and my father saying that he would catch another lifeboat later. Of course, we never saw him again.
Edith: I remember Titanic. Everything was so stately and beautiful. The linens were of a fine white and as soft as the clouds. I remember my mother having such a sense of dread and my father exclaiming that this ship was unsinkable. My mother told him that we should all perish because that was flying in the face of God himself.
Robert: I remember going into the lifeboat and my mummy holding me. My father stepped into the lifeboat but was stopped by one of the officers. "Women and children only." My father politely stepped back and waved and said, "See you later on land." We never saw him after that.
Catherine: I remember the ship tipping upwards in her final dive to eternity and the screaming. All of us on the lifeboat were crying.
Edith: I remember it being so cold and damp.
Robert: My mother cried so much that she drenched her coat. It was so cold that her tears froze.
It amazed me that 65 of America's best, professional, lifesavers were completely mesmerized by this. You could have heard a pin drop. By the time they finished telling their stories and thanked us and asked us to remember both them and their families, almost all of us were in tears. Each of us had the opportunity to shake their hands. As a young man, myself, the two older women reminded me of my grandmother, so instead of offering a handshake, I gave each a hug...including Robert. Others in the crew followed suit and did the same.
That afternoon, we paused over the reported position of the wreck site (Titanic had not been definitely located in 1982.....the wreck was not located by Doctor Ballard until 1985). There, our Captain read a passage from a Seaman's Bible of the Second World War. The only thing I remember is this:
".....and we wait for the day when the sea shall give up her dead in the glory and coming of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ........."
My shipmate, Dean, and I held the wreath while the survivors placed their hands on it. Then, we jettisoned the wreath overboard. A shipmate played "taps" and we honored not only Titanic's dead, but all who have perished at sea with a rifle salute.
As if to bring the future into the past and vice-versa, a Coast Guard Hercules C-130 airplane, equipped with the latest technology for searching out icebergs and growlers, flew over us to join the tribute. As the plane passed, the pilot "flapped" its wings to join us.
We made way to Halifax, where we dropped off our now-adopted grandparents and marched to the Titanic Cemetery for a short prayer service. Our ship spent the night in Halifax where we joined the local townspeople in a celebration of life.......not death.
Edith, Catherine, and Robert? They flew home....I never saw them again but in mind, I remember their voices, the ladies perfume they wore that day, the cane Robert used to help get around, and the sounds of my shipmates crying........and remembering.
The movie, "Titanic" is outstanding.......thanks for keeping her memory alive........my only regret is that there was no mention of the men and women who, to this day, continue to risk their lives so that others might live and survive their transit at sea.
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The Minahan Family
The Minahan story has been
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Anna Turja Lundi's Titanic Experience
I want to thank John Rudolph for allowing me to share his Grandmother's incredible experience on board the Titanic. The photographs and story are reproduced with permission from Mr. Rudolph.
Anna Sophia Turja was one of 21 children born of two mothers and one father in Oulainen, in northern Finland.
Her half-sister, Maria, was married and living in Ashtabula, Ohio. After a visit to Finland, she and her husband, John Lundi, enticed Anna to come to America. John invited her to come work for him at his store in Ashtabula, and he purchased a $50 third-class ticket for her passage on the Titanic.
Anna was 18 years old when she boarded the Titanic in Southampton, England. To her the ship was a beautiful ship -- a floating city -- "just like a town, lacking nothing." There were swimming pools, concert halls and libraries. With all its shops and attractions, the main deck was indeed bigger than the main street in her home town.
The third class accommodations were beautiful, she said. The atmosphere was quite lively with a lot of talking, singing, and fellowship. It has been said that third class on the Titanic was as good as first class on many other ships of the day.
There were two double bunk beds in her room, one on either side of the room. She had two roommates on board who were also Finnish women. One of them had "taken the young Anna Turja under her wing." She was traveling with her brother. (In steerage, the men's cabins were in the front part of the ship, the women in the rear.) The other roommates were a mother and her young baby.
Late that Sunday night, as she was settling down for the night, she felt a shudder and a shake. Soon afterwards, her roommate's brother knocked on the door and told them that "something was wrong," that they should wear warm clothing and put on their life jackets "or you'll find yourselves at the bottom of the ocean."
Their little group dressed and headed for the upper decks. At one point, a crew member tried to keep them down -- ordered them back -- but they refused to obey, and he didn't argue with them. She clearly remembers, however, that the doors were closed and chained shut behind them to prevent others from coming up.
Her group continued up to the top deck, "where it will be safer," they said, but she found it too cold up there, and so she went back down to the boat deck. She was intrigued by the activity there and by the music being played by the band (though she didn't know the names of the tunes). She remembers the band coming out of a room they had been playing in and the doors being locked after everyone had gotten out.
It was on deck that she met the Panula family, also from Finland. Mrs. Panula was traveling with her five children to meet Mr. Panula who was waiting for them in Pennsylvania. Mrs. Panula posed the question, "Must we all die by water?" She had recently lost a teen-aged son by drowning back in Finland.
She also remembers seeing the lights of another ship from the deck. This ship was most likely the Californian, which had tragically shut down its wireless for the night, and so did not respond to the Titanic's plight.
Grandma believed the claim of the ship being unsinkable, and she didn't fully understand what was going on because she did not know the language. She had been so enjoying the "concert," as the band's music seemed to her, that she says she "would have gone to the bottom of the ocean listening to that music if a sailor hadn't picked me up and put me into a lifeboat."
In the Lifeboat
She says her lifeboat was "the next to the last lifeboat." It was fully loaded when it was launched; it was not one of those that got caught up in the cables. The lifeboat was so full that as she held her hand on the edge of the boat her "fingers got wet up to the knuckles."
The boat may have had canvas sides on it, which would make it one of the four collapsible boats that the Titanic carried, Collapsibles C and D being the only ones launched successfully. The Red Cross report, though, states that it was #15. (Of course, that same report also says she returned to Finland, which she never managed to do the rest of her life.) Another suggestion was that it was #13. We're not exactly sure.
They immediately rowed away from the ship, fearing that they would get sucked down with it when it went under. The sailors were so well trained, she was sure that they would have capsized had it not been for the expertise of the oarsmen. She heard loud explosions as the lights went out and the ship went under.
They were in the lifeboats for what she figured to be eight hours. Though the night was a "brilliant, bright night," they had to burn any scraps that they could find -- paper, money, or anything else that wouldn't cause a flash fire -- so that the boats could see each other and stay together.
Her most haunting memory was that of the screams and cries of dying people in the water. Every time she got to this part of the story she would start crying. "They were in the water, and we couldn't help them."
On board the rescue ship, the Carpathia, "the people were wonderful. They gave up their blankets and coats, anything that could help." She kept looking for her roommates, but she never saw either of them again. The whole Panula family was also later confirmed lost.
New York and Aftermath
The survivors did not have to go through Ellis Island, as all other immigrants did in those days. Instead, they were taken straight to New York Hospital, and then sent on their way. Because of the language problem, she was literally tagged and put on a train to Ashtabula, Ohio. (Years later, my uncle Butch was trying to get a security "crypto clearance" in the Army. The FBI first had to investigate why there was no record of Grandma's citizen registration from entering the country. He finally did get the clearance.)
She was greeted by a crowd in Ashtabula, as she was somewhat of a celebrity by this time. She very soon met my grandfather, Emil Lundi, John's brother. They fell in love and got married; she never did go to work for her brother-in-law.
Somehow, her name turned up on the "lost passengers" list. Her family in Finland didn't know that she was alive until they received a letter from her 5 or 6 weeks later.
In May of 1953, she was a special guest when the movie "Titanic" starring Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb came to the new theater in Ashtabula. It was the first movie she had ever seen in her life. When reporters asked her afterwards (through my uncle as translator) if she thought the movie was realistic, all she could say was, "If they were close enough to film it, why didn't anyone help us?" Family members tried to explain to her that it was a Hollywood re-creation. She just kept saying, "No, no."
(Years later, on July 20, 1969, when they were watching the first moon walk, she wouldn't--and never did--believe that it was really happening. "No, no. If they could re-create the Titanic, they could re-create this, too.")
Over the years she was interviewed regularly by local newspapers when the anniversary of the sinking came around, but she turned down appearances on "I've Got a Secret" and "The Ed Sullivan Show," partly because of her age, her physical condition, and the language problem. She also refused to join in any lawsuits over the loss. She and my grandfather felt that they didn't need to go after money: Grandma had her life, and that was compensation enough.
Every year on the April anniversary she would sit her seven children down to tell them the story again. The phrase she would always close with, and repeated throughout her life was, "I can never understand why God would have spared a poor Finnish girl when all those rich people drowned."
Comments by John Rudolph:
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This article was sent to me by one of my site visitors. They did not indicate which paper this was from and did not include the exact date. I believe that the article appeared in the Chicago Tribune in early March, 1998.
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"When you have a dream-even one embedded in your subconscious that you only sense rather than fully understand-fate often moves you toward that vision without your knowing it. It draws you to people you sense will turn half-formed fantasies into reality." That is exactly what Jennifer Carter believes. Who is Jennifer Carter? She became the first woman to dive to the Titanic in her historic 1987 voyage to the bottom of the ocean. The above quote is from her book, Titanic Adventure which she co-authored with her husband Joel Hirschhorn.
Throughout her life, Jennifer overcame many obstacles. Adversity gave Jennifer Carter the courage to take control of her life and turn dreams into reality. Titanic Adventure takes you on Jennifer's extraordinary journey. It describes how her childhood fascination with the ocean was re-kindled by the least likely of events - a trip to the dentist. Find out how jumping out of an airplane, searching for the Loch Ness Monster and swimming with sharks not only contributed to, but also prepared Jennifer for her greatest journey... a visit to Titanic.
In her role as expedition leader on the Titanic 1987 mission, she planned and coordinated the momentous dive that would recover the first artifacts from the legendary ocean liner. Titanic Adventure details every aspect her eight-week expedition.
What would you say if someone gave you the chance to see the Titanic from the ocean depths... to look at that once magnificent ship face to face? And what would you think of as you descended through darkness for two hours, to a depth of two and a half miles... the passengers on their last night... the ships sounds as it twisted and broke apart... the quietude of the ocean...
Would you still take that chance after you overheard the following conversation between Paul Henri Nargeolet, Captain of the Nautile submersible, and Jennifer Carter?
One of the most fascinating chapters is entitled, "First Woman to the Titanic". In this chapter, you will feel the excitement and anticipation as Nautile slowly descends down to Titanic.
When Jennifer finally reaches the ocean floor and views Titanic for the first time, her experience will help you understand the emotional impact of her voyage. Discover the remarkable differences between the bow and stern and learn about the vast ocean creatures that consider Titanic "home" - a sharp contrast between life and death.
Jennifer's vivid descriptions of Titanic illuminates her journey and makes you feel as though you are right there exploring the Titanic wreck, never backing away from the danger of the trip downward nor the unexpected rewards:
Jennifer's trip down to see Titanic's glorious, haunting remains is one she will never forget, "The sight of the ship was unforgettable and I dream about it, even now.".
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I wish to thank Jason Underhill for allowing me to share this story about his Great Grandmother.
My Great Grandmother, Margaret Young, came to Canada, from Ireland to seek a better future. In 1912, she traveled back to Ireland to visit relatives. Margaret planned to stay in Ireland for a few months and then return by ship to New York. She would then return home by taking a train to Ontario, Canada.
When she first heard of Titanic she was ecstatic. Margaret often sent messages home to her husband, James Brown, telling of the wonderful time she was having in Ireland and how she was going to sail first class on the largest and most luxurious boat in history. Margaret paid exactly $4050 for her ticket, which was quite a lot in those days. The last letter she wrote to James prior to sailing on the Titanic said:
Sailing home on Titanic in
three days. I hope to see you soon when at New York. I will be taking
a train to Canada. I hope you will be at the train station waiting
Margaret spent much of her time on board Titanic mingling with all the rich first class passengers. She also enjoyed watching the setting sun from the boat deck and reminiscing about home.
The night of the disaster Margaret had already retired to her room and was prepared for a nights rest when she felt a small shudder. When she inquired, none of the crew would tell her what was going on. She was scared to death. She knew that the Titanic wasn't really unsinkable and feared that the boat may have struck something. Well, as we all know, she was terribly correct. She made her way to the boat deck and got directly onto a lifeboat and then helped other women on. She didn't remember exactly what lifeboat she was on, but she believes it was #7. Margaret knew they were in trouble, but she didn't really think that a lot of people would die. If she had realized the magnitude of the danger, she would have given her spot on the lifeboat to someone else. Margaret passed the next few hours by singing to herself in her head trying to prevent from freezing. The minutes passed like days and the hours passed like weeks. She could hear the catcalls, death cries and the cries for help in the distance.
When Carpathia finally arrived and rescued Titanic's survivors, Margaret and the other passengers were given blankets and dry clothes by some of Carpathia's passengers. She then ate a small meal even though she was not very hungry. Margaret was very shaken up by the disaster, but was thankful to be among the survivors.
When Margaret Young finally arrived in New York, she carried on with her plans and returned to Canada. She had a child the following year. Margaret was happy to talk about her experience on the Titanic to anyone who wished to hear it. She died at the age of 61.
My Grandmother once did a school project about the Titanic and wrote down everything her mother had to say about what happened. She kept those papers and they still exist today....that is where I got much of my information from. The project got a grade of "A-" I am happy to report. --Jason Underhill
Margaret was born on January 30, 1890 and died on July 10, 1951.
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