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.