Friday, April 27, 2012

What did I find in my Chase for Molly?

It is truly difficult to put into words how I feel after this experience.  I do know I can share some thoughts, experiences, observations and overall conclusions.  We usually take a cruise for relaxation… we did relax, we saw new places and sites and if you have been following my blogs you have seen the history behind the Titanic which many of you already know.  I think many of us base our conclusions and opinions on major disasters at arms’ length.  We learn more about them through books, movies and pictures.  It is hard to emotionally connect to a tragedy other than feeling sadness that it happened.  But after I had a chance to see its history in person I look at Titanic so differently maybe more emotionally.  It was real, it actually happened; it had an impact on so many people. 

In my first blogs I wrote about my hope to define my fascination of Titanic.  I experienced so many facets on this journey about Titanic from the building of it, the launching of it, the homelands of where the passengers were from, and the actual journey, but nothing came close to a deeper understanding my fascination.  I do know that it was a terrible disaster that changed so many lives then and now.  There are so many theories and opinions of what went wrong and what could have been different, who was to blame, what decisions could have been different, who survived and should of survived, what was the last song that was playing before she went down, what were passengers wearing at the time of the sinking, why were there not enough lifeboats, why was it women and children first, were the gates locked for third class passengers preventing their survival… the list goes on and on… but what I think brings the whole Titanic disaster fascination closer to understanding are the human stories.  There were many passengers on this cruise that were descendants of passengers on the Titanic.   The stories they shared made Titanic seem still alive.  There were no questions or doubts to their stories they were just stories about people living their lives and looking forward to new lives in America.   I guess if there is any fascination with Titanic it is the human stories.  The poor lost souls who never knew what they were about to experience would continue to touch people hearts and lives 100 years later.  I think I would like to keep my fascination alive out of respect to all that perished and survived.  I believe I can live out my fascination by what I learned from these stories …life is so very precious and we should never take it for granted.  In living our lives, we should go forward with our dreams and never look back.    

I did have two opportunities to share Margaret’s story with the passengers on the cruise.  It was a special experience for me and I believe for all who attended.  I wanted everyone to know that she was a survivor of the Titanic and a survivor in life.  She was not what we see in movies but she was real.  She was a strong and courageous woman always looking out to help others.  I felt everyone had a better understanding of what a true human being she was and not just a name.  I felt very honored to portray her and share her story. 

Now the question is what did I find Chasing Molly on this journey?   I started on this journey knowing a little bit about her spirit but I think I came back with some of it within me.  Taking this journey I traveled to one of her favorite cities, New York City, and felt how she must have loved the charm and pace of such a fascinating city, paid my respects at her resting place and felt closer to her.  But following the path of Titanic 100 years later made a difference in my understanding of her spirit.  I believe it hit me when we arrived at the actual site of the sinking of Titanic.  It was so very dark, the water was calm, and I could only picture her in the lifeboat taking charge and moving forward with staying alive.  All around her was panic and sadness but she pushed forward to help others… something she had been doing all of her life.  I know in her heart she felt she was doing what was right.  She never questioned if what she was doing was the right thing.  I believe I can take away from that moment not to question if it is right but to just do what needs to be done- to move on with life and help others and be who you are. 

I hope since the 100 anniversary has passed that we do not walk away from it.  If anything, there was good that came out of the disaster. 

That evening of April 14-15, 2012 we came together in a spirit of remembrance to give thanks for the lives of 1,503 men, women and children lost to the freezing Atlantic waters one hundred years ago, when the Titanic met its end under the stars at that exact spot.  In the presence of relatives and descendants of those who were on board, we mourned their loss and took comfort in the developments of safety at sea which followed.
Darkness was on the face of the deep.  We remembered the families torn apart by this tragedy.  Mothers separated from their children.  Husbands pulled from their loved ones as calamity struck.  And we remember with pride the acts of courage, the inspiring selflessness and sacrifice of those who gave their lives that others might live.

We should continue to recognize it by taking the lessons learned and live our lives with strength and courage and never give up on our dreams no matter what. 
So I will keep my fascination of Titanic close to my heart and continue to look back at this experience as an opportunity of a life time.  Chasing Molly will never end for me.  She is someone to look up to as a woman of her time, as a woman of all time… and perhaps practice a little of what she did in her life in mine.

Thank you for reading my blogs.  I hope you have enjoyed them, learned a little bit more about the mystery of Titanic and maybe taken away some of my experience as food for thought. 

Janet Kalstrom 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

100 years later… arriving in New York

I never would have thought 19 days ago when we left New York City we would have the experience we have had.  We left with excitement of participating in the chance of a lifetime to pay our respects at the memorial service at the exact spot and time where the Titanic sank 100 years ago.  For those of you who have been following my blogs you know it has been an adventure and many moments of reflection and sadness.  I somewhat knew that would happen. I was also Chasing Molly to see if I could capture what she might have felt or experienced during this journey.  After the memorial service I had reached a level of sadness but I reached another perspective after arriving in New York after the journey.   

After picking up the survivors on Monday morning, the Carpathia took three and a half days to reach New York.  It steamed into the harbor on the evening Thursday April 18.  We were on the same route coming into New York Harbor as the Carpathia.   The morning was foggy and cold and again another solemn moment as we caught our first glance of the Statue of Liberty.  I felt very sad to think how this moment looked through the eyes of the immigrants on board the Carparthia.  Just a few days prior their thoughts would have been entirely different.   Perhaps they had happy thoughts about a new life in America.   Even though they were survivors, many had huge personal loses and their new beginnings were still unknown.  In most cases their future would never be the same.

All this time during this tragedy in the back of Margaret’s mind was her thoughts about her grandson’s health but she still moved forward to aid the survivors all the way to the arrival to New York.  She continued her support post arrival by making sure everyone was accounted for and had been provided shelter.  When she arrived she was blessed to hear that her grandson was fine and had only had an allergic reaction to milk.  She stayed for a period of time in New York assisting survivors until her return to Denver.  She would have left from Grand Central Station for that long train ride back to Denver, Colorado. 

Margaret returned home as Denver’s Heroine.   Denver celebrated her arrival and hosted a special luncheon for all to attend.  Margaret then returned to New York to present Captain Rostron, captain of the Carpathia, with a loving cup and medals to all the crew in gratitude for rescuing all of the survivors.

We had the opportunity this time in New York to experience the impression left by Titanic. New York was the destination of the maiden voyage.  Many living in New York were waiting for family and friends to arrive on this maiden voyage. The news of the Titanic sinking had been sent from ship to ship by wireless, but the first reports contained little accurate information.  It wasn’t until 6:20 pm on April 15th that the White Star offices learned the truth in a telegram from the Olympic.  The first public list of survivors posted was handwritten on a large board outside the offices of the New York Times early on April 16th.

We had the opportunity to visit the original White Star pier 58 where Carpathia dropped the Titanic lifeboats (now a golf driving range). They were lowered into the harbor and each rowed to the pier by two Titanic crew members. It was the last job they would do as members of the Titanic’s crew.  Then we viewed pier 54, the Cunnard dock, where the Carpathia finally docked, and the survivors finally reached land.

At 8:00pm, 30,000 people crowded around Cunard’s Pier 54 while another 10,000 filled the streets leading up to the docks.  Some of the people waiting at the pier did not know that their loved ones died.  For every joyous reunion there was one that would never take place.  The immigrants were not required to go through Ellis Island which was the normal process for entering America.  They were considered survivors and not required to go through that immigration process.

Pier 54 - Where Carpathia Docked
Original Cunnard-White Star arch at Pier 54

New York had many connections to those who perished and also survived.  During this stay in NY, we toured Manhattan to observe several of these memorials.

Isadore and Ida Straus
Isadore and Ida Straus were the owners of Macys. Isadore was one of the three brothers who made Macy's one of America's leading department stores. In addition, each of the brothers carved out a career in distinguished public service.  Isadore and Ida led very philanthropic lives by helping others in need.   They had been traveling in France before boarding Titanic to return home.  At the time to get in the lifeboats, Ida made the decision to stay with her husband.  She said she had been married for 40 years to Isadore and could not see living her life without him.  She gave her fur coat to her maid and made sure she got a spot on Lifeboat #8.  Both perished with the sinking of the Titanic and the maid survived.

The Molly Brown House Museum currently has on display in their Titanic Exhibit the original sheet music for “The Titanic’s Disaster” composed to commemorate Isadore and Ida Straus.

The memorial is a triangular park next to where the Straus’s had lived in the middle of Manhattan.  It has a beautiful reclining statue and inscription with a fountain.

William T. Stead
William T. Stead was traveling on the Titanic on his way to a peace conference on April 20th at Carnegie Hall to speak in front of President Taft.    He was a very well-known newspaper editor in London.  He was known as a “moral crusader”, advocate for women’s rights, human rights, and spiritualism.   Somewhat ironically, he had written two stories about ships that sank in the Atlantic.  He wrote in 1886 “How the Mail Steamer Went Down in the Mid-Atlantic, by a Survivor” in which a mail steamer collides with another ship - loss of life was due to lack of lifeboats.  He wrote at the end of that story “This is exactly what might take place and will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats”.  In 1892, he wrote “From the Old World to the New” in which a cruise liner hits an iceberg and sinks in the Atlantic.   Both stories feature E. J. Smith as the Captain.  That is the same name as the actual captain of the Titanic.  When he heard the Titanic was going to sink, he went to the first class smoking room to read.  This is where he was last seen.  His body was not recovered.   It was rumored (but not confirmed) that he was going to receive a Noble Prize later that same year.

Titanic Lighthouse

On April 15, 1913, one year after the sinking of the Titanic, the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse and Time Ball, mounted atop the Seamen's Church Institute, were dedicated to honor the passengers, officers, and crew who perished in the sinking.

The Titanic Memorial Lighthouse exhibited a fixed green light that could be seen throughout New York Harbor and down as far as Sandy Hook. Five minutes before noon each day, a time ball would be hoisted to the top of a steel rod mounted atop the lighthouse and dropped at the stroke of twelve as indicated over the wires from Washington, D.C.
Today the Lighthouse sits at the entrance of the Seaman’s Museum at the Seaport center on the East River – the original docks during the sailing ship age.

New York City never had the chance to celebrate the Ship of Dreams like Southampton, Liverpool, Belfast and Cobh.  They did have one thing in common.  They were all stricken with the grief of the disaster and the challenge going forward to support the families and friends of the perished and survivors. 

Now, our TMC journey has ended.  It was something I will never experience again.  It was an emotional roller coaster along the way.  I will be collecting my thoughts over the next few days and enter my last blog on Chasing Molly My TMC Journey.   I will have digested this experience and be able to share with you what I have captured emotionally, the feedback from fellow passengers, and answer the question “Does the fascination still live on?”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Aftermath: Lifeboat-Rescue; Halifax, Paying our Respects

In my last blog all of us had a chance to remember those who perished and who struggled to survive but most important it was a time to reflect on how precious our lives are. Perhaps what I shared with you might have given you that moment to reflect.  If not, perhaps you can take that moment now.

The Lifeboat – Rescue – New York
I left you where Margaret was in Lifeboat #6.  I am not sure what was going through her mind other than survival.  She had endured an experience neither she nor any of the other over 700 survivors would ever forget. 

In excerpts paraphrased from museum documents; she started rowing with the others and encountered criticism and frustration from the crewman in charge of the lifeboat, Quartermaster Hichens.   He was at the rudder, and standing much higher than everyone.  The quartermaster in command of the boat burst out in a frightened voice, and warned every one of the fate that awaited them, telling them their task in rowing away from the sinking ship was futile, as Titanic was so large that in sinking it would draw everything for miles around down with her suction.  The ship was still fully lighted, but not one moving object was visible. Suddenly there was a rift in the water, the sea opened up, and the surface foamed like giant arms spread around the ship, and the vessel disappeared from sight.  Then, not a sound was heard.  Margaret spent the remaining four hours rowing with others, arguing with the Quartermaster regarding directions and actions to take, and tried to keep everyone as positive as possible that they would be saved.  

       While glancing around, watching the edge of the horizon, the voice of the young woman at the oar exclaimed, “There is a flash of light!” All looked in the direction pointed out, and the quartermaster said “That is a falling star.” It became lighter, and later was multiplied by others on the lighted deck. Finally, he was convinced then that it was a ship. He said it was the Olympic, as she was to have passed after midnight (the Olympic actually passed two days later). Then he gave a sigh of relief, and again ordered everyone to drop the oars.

By the time they reached the Carpathia, the heavy sea was running.  A rope was then thrown to them, which was spliced in four at the bottom, where a wide board was held together by four large knots. Feet first, they got on and sat on the seat that formed a swing. Catching hold of the one thick rope, they were hoisted up to where a dozen of the crew and officers and doctors were waiting. Stimulants were given to those who needed them, and hot coffee was provided. Everything was done for their comfort; the Carpathia passengers shared their staterooms, clothes, and toilet articles. The passengers then retired to the far corner of the ship where the deck-chairs were placed, giving the lounge up completely to the survivors.

When Margaret was on board the Carpathia, she found people speechless, half-clad, their eyes protruding and hair streaming down.  The overflow beds were made on the couches in the lounge, and pallets or blankets were made on the floor.  Margaret felt it was her duty to help those less fortunate.  She first assisted in the communication with those who spoke a different language.  Over the years from her traveling and schooling she had learned around five languages.  She hoped that she might assist and reassure those that they were being taken care of.  She then started a group, along with a few of her other first class passengers, called the Survivors Committee and was elected chairperson.   The mission was to raise money for the less fortunate, to make arrangements for communicating to their families that they had survived and were safe, to listen to their stories and concerns, and to make sure that some means of housing were available for them when they reached New York.  The day before reaching New York, Margaret was told that $10,000 had been raised.  The Titanic Survivors Committee continued to check that the company was keeping their promise and that all were cared for.

Margaret also recognized the significance of the hard work and heroic efforts that the crew and Captain Rostron had made for their rescue.  She started making provisions to provide for an honorary recognition of the captain and the crew to show the survivor’s gratitude for saving so many lives.

After three days, as the Carpathia was nearing the harbor, it was surrounded by smaller boats that went out to meet it, filled with newspaper men and photographers.  After arriving, White Star Line officials and general aid corps left the ship. The survivors found it was necessary to improvise beds in the lounge, so Margaret remained with them on board all night. There were many who had friends on the dock, but did not know it, so with each one an escort was sent and the names called out, and those finding their friends would return to the ship and report.  They kept a list of their whereabouts. For some of those remaining, telegrams were sent that night and the next morning.

     The next morning on the ship, Margaret was joined with five members of the committee, who brought on $5,000, so they said, in funds to be distributed among the much overworked crew of the Carpathia. This being done, an order was given to create a loving-cup to be presented to the captain on the return of his ship from Naples. Having taken a list of those of the survivors who were to be assisted, a copy was made and given to the White Star agents who came on the boat. 

When I have the opportunity I tell this portion of Margaret’s life and contribution to assist with the aftermath of the Titanic.  It demonstrates to me how truly strong she was.  She always seemed to know the right thing to do.  She never considered herself a heroine; she felt it was her duty as a human being.   I will continue with her story when we get to New York in a few days.

Arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia

We were told that Halifax is sometimes known as the City of Sorrows.  After arriving, we woke to a very foggy and emotionally depressing morning.  It seemed that the Halifax weather was matching our mood.  We had been to the emotionally wrenching service at the ship’s location, and now had arrived at the site that accepted the few recovered bodies.  All the Titanic related cities we have seen were either a part of the creation or the launching of the ship of dreams.  This city is a place to pay respects for the few recovered perished souls that were the only human remains left from the tragedy.

Originally, White Star officials in New York first believed that the damaged Titanic would sail to Halifax, the closest major port and trains with relatives and immigration officials departed from New York to Halifax.  Hours after the Titanic sinking was confirmed, White Star Line commissioned cable ships (used to lay trans-Atlantic telephone cables) based in Halifax to recover the bodies of victims.  On April 17, the White Star Line released Canadian steamer Mackay-Bennett with coffins and canvas bags to recover bodies.  306 bodies were recovered, 116 buried at sea, and Mackay-Bennett returned to Halifax April 26th with 190 bodies. The White Star Line released the Minia, April 22nd which recovered 17 bodies, two of which were buried at sea.  Victims were unloaded at the Coal of Flagship Wharf and brought by horse drawn carriage to a temporary morgue (at the Curling Ice Arena).

Victims were buried in three cemeteries between May 3rd and June 12th.

Mount Olivet Cemetery was for Catholics – 19 victims were buried there.
Baron De Hirsch Cemetery was for Jewish- 10 victims were buried there.
The other 121 victims were presumed protestant and buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery. 
Another 59 bodies were sent by train to their families.

Many stories have been told about the victims, but there is one special one that I believe everyone holds dear to their hearts.  A child was found in the water with no marks or injuries.  The crew of the Mackay-Bennett was so moved that they paid for his memorial and insisted on a memorial service.   He had been given identification No. 4.  He was wearing a gray coat with fur, brown serge frock, flannel garment, petticoat, pink woolen singlet, brown shoes and stockings.  For many years the child became the symbol of all the lost children on the Titanic. The child was finally identified after many years as 19 month old Sidney Leslie Goodwin.  The Goodwin’s were traveling from Southampton as third class passengers with their 6 children- Sidney was the youngest.  His entire family died.   


The tour of Titanic related Halifax history included a drive by and short discussion of both the Catholic and Jewish cemeteries and a stop at the Fair View Lawn Cemetery.   It was a respectful display with the three rows of headstones placed in the shape of the prow of a ship (although it isn’t known if that was intentional).  The weather, site, and the quietness, seemed to bring a sense of serenity and closure to the tremendous loss of life.  So many lives lost, and such a relatively small number recovered and buried in this site.  Halifax is a wonderful seaport city that has accepted a heavy burden, and can stand tall for its contribution to the Titanic legacy.  
Margaret made multiple trips to Halifax with her nieces to lay wreaths on the graves here.  I could picture her sharing a moment with those that perished.   In my Chasing Molly journey, I know in my heart that this is something she would have done.  She continued to support the Survivors Committee until her death in 1932.
This is the first time I think the disaster of the Titanic became truly real to me.    It really did happen, it still feels very fresh to me, and the memorial service seemed to me like 100 years had not passed since the tragedy.  I can feel the pain and anguish everyone must have felt, survivors, family of the perished, the unknown, the searching, and the heartache.  I am sure after 100 years so many of us feel this way, no wonder it changed Margaret’s life forever.  We all hate to see suffering, someone who has lost a loved one, watching the grief.

I have become very close to this tragedy more than I ever thought I would…we felt that we paid our respects... But I don’t believe you can ever truly pay enough after a tragedy of this enormity.

We are on to our last stop in Chasing Molly… New York City