I remember when I first watched the movie Titanic, I was overcome with emotion. I was pretty young at the time, and I couldn't believe so many people had lost their lives in such a tragic way.
Of course, movies always make things more dramatic than they actually were, but it's hard to argue that Titanic over-exaggerated the disaster that happened in 1912.
Though more than half of the passengers on the ship died, 1503 in total, some of them lived to tell their stories of that fateful night.
These are some stories that stuck with me.
1. Edith Russell
Russell was 33 at the time of the accident, and she recalled seeing the iceberg before the ship struck it. She also recalled how most people thought it was fun.
There was a very slight bump. Just a little jar, nothing at all. I went in my room. There was a second light jar, nothing of consequence, but you knew something had happened. One man said "that's an iceberg and it's a whopper!"
Because you know, there's 1/8 above the water and 7/8 below and this blooming thing is rising all the way over the top of the ship. We thought nothing of it. We picked up the bits of ice and most of us played snowballs!
2. Charlotte Collyer
Collyer was one of the lucky ones who managed to be rescued by the Carpathia ship. However, when she arrived in New York City, the 31-year-old was unable to locate her husband.
There was scarcely anyone who had not been separated from husband, child or friend. Was the last one among the handful saved? I had a husband to search for, a husband whom in the greatness of my faith, I had believed would be found in one of the boats. He was not there.
3. Ruth Becker
Even though it was a tragedy, Becker, who was 12 at the time, recalled the beauty among chaos.
The night was dark, no moon. It was a very dark, black night, and that boat was just beautiful. All the lights in the boat were on. It was just a beautiful sight. It was going down quietly and the lights were going under the water as it went down.
I remember that very plainly as it was a beautiful sight and a terrible sight as we could see the boat was going down.
4. Eva Hart
At just seven years old at the time of the ship's demise, it would be understandable if Hart was traumatized for life. However, she later said that despite losing her father in the wreck, she didn't let it affect her travels.
People I meet always seem surprised that I do not hesitate to travel by train, car, airplane, or ship when necessary. It is almost as if they expect me to be permanently quivering in my shoes at the thought of a journey.
If I acted like that I would have died of fright many years ago - life has to be lived irrespective of the possible dangers and tragedies lurking round the corner.
5. Laura Mabel Francatelli
I can't imagine the terror of knowing your ship was about to sink, but it must have been a whole other set of emotions when you saw the ship that was going to save you. Francatelli recalled this moment exactly.
Oh, at daybreak, when we saw the lights of that ship, about four miles away, we rowed like mad, and passed icebergs like mountains, at last at about 6:30 the dear Carpathia picked us up, our little boat was like a speck against that giant.
Then came my weakest moment, they lowered a rope swing, which was awkward to sit on, with my life preserver 'round me. Then they hauled me up, by the side of the boat.
Can you imagine, swinging in the air over the sea, I just shut my eyes & clung tight saying ‘Am I safe?’ at last I felt a strong arm pulling me onto the boat...
6. Elizabeth Shutes
Shutes made it onto a life boat almost immediately after the ship hit the iceberg. The men rowing her life boat didn't really know what they were doing, but they knew they needed to move quickly.
Our men knew nothing about the position of the stars, hardly how to pull together. Two oars were soon overboard. The men’s hands were too cold to hold on...
Then across the water swept that awful wail, the cry of those drowning people. In my ears I heard: "She’s gone, lads; row like hell or we’ll get the devil of a swell."
7. Helen Churchill Candee
Candee was on the Titanic alone, but once danger became imminent, the 53-year-old was "so attractive that at least a half dozen men in first class, including Colonel Archibald Gracie, seemed inclined to 'protect' her."
A group of stokers [steam engine workers] fleeing the water-filled decks below appeared. Each face reflected the sight he had seen, the sight of coming death. Each knew what the passengers did not know... All of a sudden, the junior officer who led them gave a short, "Halt!"
The men did as they were told, turned around and went back down below – to their deaths. I looked with profound admiration at the descending column of men, who could courageously relinquish their life.
8. Elin and Pekko Hakkarainen
Elin and Pekko were aboard the Titanic as newlyweds headed to start a new life together in America. Elin recalled how the night of the accident, Pekko had gone to see what was happening after they heard a scraping sound.
Elin went back to bed, and when she woke up, the cabin was tilted and her husband was still gone.
"After a few moments, I grabbed my purse and life jacket and ran out to the passageway," Elin recalled. "The door was locked! All of the doors were locked."
Finally, passengers were allowed to make their way to the lifeboats.
We rowed away quickly, watching our ship slide beneath the surface of the water. The screams of those in the water were horrible — I remember calling over and over, "Pekko, Pekko, I am here; come this way."
It was cold on the lifeboat, and I wasn’t wearing warm clothes. I didn’t know if I was falling asleep or freezing to death, but I drifted into unconsciousness.
Soon after, it was daylight, and we could see a ship in the distance — we would be rescued… and made warm. Once aboard the Carpathia, the passengers and crew did their best to console us. We were given clothes, food, and hot coffee.
But with all we were given, I was still lacking. I slowly realized the last words I might ever hear from my husband were, "I’m going to see what has happened." I remember standing at the railing for hours, looking out to the open sea and hoping upon hope that I would discover just one more lifeboat.
Elin never saw Pekko again.
9. "Navratil Orphans"
Michel Navratil had separated from his wife and was taking his young sons, ages two and four, to America for a better life. Michael perished in the disaster, but his son, Michel J., remembered his father's last words to him.
"My child, when your mother comes for you, as she surely will, tell her that I loved her dearly and still do. Tell her I expected her to follow us, so that we might all live happily together in the peace and freedom of the New World."
It was a month before the Navratil boys' mother found them, as they were traveling under aliases without their mother's knowledge. Their picture ended up in a newspaper, at which point their mother recognized them. She immediately sailed across the Atlantic to retrieve them.
10. Annie McGowan
McGowan was 15 years old at the time of the crash, but it wasn't until she was 86 that she finally spoke out on the fateful night.
Women wouldn't leave their husbands. They were screaming, and I could hear gunshots in the background. Apparently, some of the men had tried to dress like women in order to be rescued, and they were shot.
McGowan also recalled men trying to get into her lifeboat, despite the "woman and children first" mandate.
"Let me in or I'll tip the whole lifeboat. Of course, we had to let him in."
How many of these stories had you heard?