Jack Thayer was a 17-year-old first class passenger on the RMS Titanic, traveling with his parents on that fateful night of April 15, 1912. He miraculously survived after an epic struggle in the frigid waters. His mother was able to board one of the lifeboats but sadly, his father John Thayer perished. Jack went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania four years later. In 1940, he described his harrowing experiences on the famed ship in a self-published book, of which 500 copies were printed for family and friends. OceanographerRobert Ballard used it to determine the location of the Titanic and proved that the ship had split in half as it sank, contrary to popular belief.
During my visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 14-15th, for the Titanic 100 commemoration, I met numerous people, young and old, from different ethnic backgrounds and without necessarily a direct relationship to any Titanic victims or survivors, who flocked from all corners of the globe, to be part of this special remembrance. Some were die-hard Titanic fans, fondly known as “Titaniomaniacs” and some were novices just like me. Notwithstanding their knowledge base disparity, both groups share even one hundred years later, an unrelenting fascination with Titanic.
One of the enduring mysteries surrounding the sinking of RMS Titanic 100 years ago relates to a tiny pair of shoes retrieved from the remains of a toddler.
The child’s body was found floating face up without a life jacket in the icy North Atlantic five days after Titanic struck an iceberg and sank more than 700 miles from the Nova Scotia coast at approximately 2:20am on April 15, 1912.
Many events are taking place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in April 2012. The Titanic 100 organizers believe that after Belfast, where the Titanic was constructed, Halifax is the second-most important Titanic city in the world because of the abundance of historic sites. Halifax boasts three Titanic cemeteries and 24 Titanic sites including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the Titanic Scientific Exhibit at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, the recovery locations of the victims, the morgues and locales for James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster movie Titanic.
Why is my great grandfather buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia?
Dubbed “The City of Sorrow”, the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago, had an enormous impact on Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although, this maritime city lies about 700 miles northwest of the Titanic sinking site, Halifax became the epicenter of the Titanic recovery efforts. After the Carpathia had rescued 700 passengers and sailed to New York, the White Star Line dispatched the first of four Canadian ships to search for bodies after the sinking.
Paying respect at my great grandfather’s grave on the Titanic’s 100th Anniversary
April 14, 2012
With mild trepidation albeit greater conviction, I booked a last minute round trip ticket from New York to Halifax this past weekend. After landing, I hopped in a taxi asking the friendly driver to stop at a flower shop on my way to the Mount Olivet Cemetery. While he was patiently waiting for me outside the store, I fretted over what kind of flowers to lay at my ancestor’s grave. For a moment, I thought of purchasing beautiful white orchids, which would last longer after I had left. Wondering if orchids existed in northern Lebanon, I opted to play it safe and get white and yellow daisies, reminiscent of the wild marguerite flowers found in my great grandfather’s village of Thoum.
A personal account about my great-grandfather and the Titanic
This Sunday, the 15th of April 2012, is the Centennial of the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic. Of the passengers aboard “the ship of dreams”, more than 1,500 perished, including Gerios Youssef Abi-Saab, my great-grandfather.
Gerios, a native of the village of Thoum, in Northern Lebanon, left his wife and six children including Wehbe, my grandfather, who was five years old, hoping to provide a better life for his family by working in America. Lebanon, under Ottoman rule at the time, was struck by famine and poverty and religious tensions pervaded. Lebanese migration became widespread resulting in several waves of departures to faraway lands such as Australia, South America, Canada and the United States.