Unlike Halifax that was dubbed the “City of Sorrows” for its grim role in the recovery and burial of the Titanic victims, New York City became notorious as the city that welcomed the 713 survivors. After a three-day journey hampered by fog, ice and rough seas, the RMS Carpathia docked at 9:30pm on April 18, 1912 at New York’s Pier 54. The rescue ship was greeted by tens of thousands of people anxiously waiting under a heavy rain. “At the pier, rich men, poor men stood shoulder to shoulder, all of them united in the hope of seeing the faces of those they loved,” Wyn Craig Wade wrote in “The Titanic: End of a Dream.” “People at the pier began weeping quietly. There was no hysteria; everyone remained in control.”
When 38-year-old Shaanineh, my great grandfather’s cousin, boarded the RMS Titanic in Cherbourg on April 10, 1912, the dusk was just settling in and the lights of the great ship were blazing under the fading sun. Was she, a poor immigrant from Lebanon traveling as a third class passenger, awe-stricken at the first sight of the mammoth vessel? Or was she merely relieved after a strenuous journey to have finally reached the famed liner, which would transport her to her final destination in Youngstown, Ohio? Perhaps both.
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.