Share this article

print logo

It was an honor to meet three Titanic survivors

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I am reminded of a very special time in the life of a 13-year-old boy and his mother.

My son, Jamie, and I shared a fascination with ships from the past. We heard that there was an organization dedicated to the Titanic, and after some investigation, we were excited to learn about the Titanic Enthusiasts Club. We joined and began to receive the club's magazine in 1972.

A 60th anniversary event was planned in Greenwich, Conn. Hardly able to contain our excitement, we made reservations. This was to be a re-creation of the last weekend on the ship before that fateful night -- the tragedy of "God's unsinkable ship."

The most memorable part of the weekend was meeting three of the survivors.

Dr. Washington Dodge, now deceased, was 4 years old when the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. He and his parents were among the lucky to be saved.

We were especially impressed with Edwina MacKenzie, who was 27 at the time of the sinking. She recalled the panic, cries of children and general mayhem. As she was about to be helped into a lifeboat, she heard the pleas of a young newlywed, whom she had chatted with earlier in the dining room. Mrs. George didn't want to leave her husband and begged an officer to let them on together. Women and children first -- that was the rule. But later they were also two of the lucky survivors.

At the re-enactment weekend, we were served a turkey dinner, which was the fare for second-class passengers. We also met Walter Lord, author of "A Night to Remember." It was thrilling to have a photograph taken with him, and have him autograph a copy of the book we had brought with us.

The survivors told us they could not remember the orchestra playing "Nearer, My God, to Thee," as has been portrayed in film versions of the sinking. MacKenzie recalled that as her half-filled lifeboat distanced itself from the Titanic, the ship reared and slipped into the frigid Atlantic.

There was memorabilia of sorts: a piano stool cover, tapestry, glassware, silverware, a menu. Nonetheless, it was a somber dinner as we said a silent prayer for the 1,503 men, women and children who lost their lives.

Soon after, the club changed its name to the Titanic Historical Society. Each year, an officer of the society drops a wreath from a helicopter at the site of the sinking.

We have been fortunate to take many cruises with family and friends over the years. At first, my husband, Paul, was less than enthusiastic about cruising because he remembered the troop ship that took him to Europe and the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. He recalled the stormy seas, seasickness, cold food and, as a young soldier of 18, being the first son to leave home for an uncertain future.

But I finally persuaded him to take a cruise for our 25th wedding anniversary. The modern ships enabled him to share our love of cruising, and that continued every year until he was too ill to travel. We had many adventures, including one that caused the captain to shut down the engines as we rumbled through a storm in the Bermuda Triangle.

Forty years later, my son and I still share our interest in ships that have met tragedies, from the Andrea Doria to the Costa Concordia. But the "unsinkable" Titanic will always be the most fascinating mystery of the 20th century.