Did you know that there were 154 Lebanese on board the Titanic and that 125 perished? They were third class passengers leaving their Ottoman controlled villages in Mount Lebanon to better their circumstances. They had heard the success stories of returning immigrants from America who told that the “streets were paved in gold” and they were seeking freedom in the New World. Instead, they became prisoners of fate.
If you would like to learn more about the Lebanese on the Titanic, click on the maroon-colored link above, which is a pdf of a presentation given on April 17, 2015 at the Vancouver Public Library, hosted by the Lebanese Canadian Society of British Columbia and sponsored by the International Lebanese Titanic Committee and the World Lebanese Cultural Union.
Mr. Robert Douglas Norman, a 28 year-old electrical engineer from Glasgow, Scotland, was traveling on the Titanic from Southampton to Vancouver, Canada where his brother resided and where he owned some land. He boarded the doomed ship as a second class passenger. On the evening of April 14th Douglas played the piano at a hymn service presided over by Reverend Ernest Carter. After the collision, Norman met Kate Buss and Marion Wright and told them the ship had struck an iceberg but assured them there was no danger.
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.
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.