April 15, 1912
mileage count was not posted in her first-class smoking room. Her stewards did
not awaken their well-to-do passengers with tea and smiles. The aroma of
breakfast did not float through her galleys. Her good captain did not walk the
ship for his morning's inspection. The sun did not rise on her pristine,
glowing decks. It did not flash across her spotless windows or play upon her
snapping flags. It could not...she had never met the morning's light, for she
had been swallowed by the Atlantic just a handful of hours before.
The water was as calm as a millpond for her to glide across. The only movement seemed to have been created was by her wake. Not another ship was within sight; she had been steaming alone toward the New World. The night was like any other she had seen, no worse in wave or wind. As she ploughed on the air grew colder, as did the sea. She shrugged it off, for it was spring in the North Atlantic and she was hearty enough to see the passage through.
Across her decks her fine guests had settled into their evening's entertainment. Their suppers were as grand as ever and now they would socialise. They would disperse throughout her to find more relaxation. Dance hall music suddenly electrified the third-class general room. They laughed and sang, they drank and danced. The second-class walked her endless decks and chatted. They visited her bars and stole time in their library. The first-class smoked fine cigars and sipped finer brandy. They sat beside the fireplace and recounted daring feats, long since past. The evening had been a marvellous end to a glorious day of sailing westward.
Her crew laboured away as diligently as ever. It was not their days that came to an end, but their shifts. They walked about below decks coming on or going off. They searched for a hot meal and wished for a soft bunk. They looked about themselves with wonder at what a sight she still was. Every aspect of her captured them so. They thought that they might never grow tired of her. Their duties were firmly placed in the routine, well learned and practised. They greased gears, they turned down beds, and they sorted mail. Regardless of the hands on the clock, their jobs pressed onward.
Her bridge was guarded by the men of her night watch. They kept careful eyes out ahead of them as well as on the charts. They walked from one side of the wheelhouse to the other. They stood upon her bridge wings, rubbing their hands in the chilling air. The atmosphere was of silence and strict duty. They were well aware that the night's passage had its dangers and they were not about to have one catch them by surprise.
She was steaming with all of her boilers ablaze over the open water. Although she could not make a record crossing, she could still give it a good run for its money. Just as the night before, and the one before that, she had nothing but the Atlantic for company. She had last seen ships while in sight of Ireland. The next time she would find one would surely be within sight of America.
And then it came before her, with its black and solid mass. So close was she before it had been noticed, that there was barely time to react in thought, let alone in deed. But her officers did, with all of their years of knowledge and experience. Her good First Officer saw to it that her engines were slammed into reverse and that her bow was heeling over to one side. He knew that it could not be steered clear of, the best he could hope for was to pass it by with as little damage as possible. Her closing proximity to it made his orders futile and she hit. It sent a shudder through her, feeling almost like a gently nudging, from its frozen bulk. Her passengers and many in her crew had not a clue as to what the tremble had meant. Her First Officer did as he realised the terrible act of Fate that had played out before him.
The Captain had ordered his charge to be inspected knowing that there must be damage. Word had soon come back to him, from her shipbuilder. Water had made its way into several areas and some spots were rising rapidly. Her designer, the one man on this earth that knew her best, had pronounced her lost. There would be no possibility of saving her, she would founder. His words fell upon those present as if weighted by lead. It was unimaginable to have such a thing happen to such a strong lady. She was not meant to sink, not while on her first crossing.
Not a second was to be spared, as the Captain sent his officers to their emergency stations. If he was unable to save her, at least he could save her residents. Across her boat deck they flew, with the task of seeing that everyone was safely put off. Her passengers and crew were painfully slow in coming into the cold night air. They had not believed that she could be sinking when she showed no great signs of it. There was no crash, no twisting of metal, or shattering explosions. She was not falling to one side, not even her deck was askew.
As the sea advanced deeper inside of her they came to realise that she had been wounded. They now came in droves onto her deck, each seeking the same goal. Be it by an officers' hands or another's, they had to abandon her. Many firmly believed that a rescue ship was just moments away, others still thought that she would not completely sink.
Their civilised behaviour began to turn foul as her signal flares burst in the sky above them. It was then that panic had erupted across her, from stem to stern. They realised that no ship was almost upon them. The disparity of the situation had been wildly ignited, sending them into a seething frenzy. They fought, they shouted, and they screamed. They shoved, they bolted, and they wept.
Her once prized boat deck became home to the best and worst that humanity could offer. Great acts of courage and kindness had randomly surfaced. Life-belts were given up to those without. Life-boat seats were refused by the elderly so that the young could live. Passengers jumped into the confusion to aid the crew. Her deck was also the scene of that which man is most ashamed of. If a seat was at stake, nothing was beyond securing it. Babies were seen as tickets to salvation and they became targets of cowardly men. Others tried to gain access by sneaking on with a group of women. People were pushed over her sides to even the odds a bit.
They struggled for life, those thousand souls still left on board. They clawed and bit into any hope of preservation as the frigid waters rose and her list grew to an obscene angle. With frantic cries for help surrounding her pleading to be spared, she sank from sight. Their wails and screams had flashed through the night. They pounded the calm water, making it white with froth.
As she fell below, far from night's sky, so too did the dreams of those now in the sea. Their hopes for a happy life in America had melted. Their wishes to see their children have all they could had faded. All that they had saved for and prayed for had ended in the sea. With courage they battled wanting only life and to see their loved ones again.
At 2.20 in the morning of April 15, 1912 the world suffered a great loss. The Royal Mail Steamer Titanic and 1,500 of the 2,200 aboard had perished. Men and women, passengers and crew, rich and poor were taken. Some had died gallantly at their posts, others in the arms of those they held dear. A list of their names is far too long to include here, I regret. They should be known, as she was not populated by faceless numbers. Her decks were walked by people as any other, with hopes and dreams. It is for this reason that I include the following:
There you will find their names listed in a way I cannot do justice here. I invite you to give pause to your day and look through them. If for no other motive than to realise that they were like us, unaware that their lives could so instantly change.