The Glory of Easter
t was just before midnight on April 14th, 1912 when the HMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage from England to the United States, struck an iceberg in the icy waters off the Atlantic. Within two-and-a-half hours the then largest ship afloat—a ship claimed to be unsinkable—had plunged to the bottom of the ocean. All but 705 of the nearly 2200 passengers and crew aboard perished.
The builders of this luxury liner were so confident of her sea-worthiness that they only provided sufficient lifeboats to accommodate half of the passengers and crew. And these were mostly as window dressing. There had been no lifeboat drill or any kind of emergency exercises; consequently, when disaster struck, there was total chaos. The following is how one reporter pieced together the story of that tragic night.
"In the panic and confusion that reigned in the early hours of April 15, orders were misunderstood, mistakes were made, fights broke out; some boats were launched with no one aboard but a handful of the ship's crew, and a few were even launched empty. Most, however, were jammed with women and children, and had just enough crew to handle the boat safely.
Like the dying breath of some
immense wounded beast, the gigantic
ship slid beneath the surface.
"The boat crews rowed hard to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the area of the vortex that would be formed when the liner went down. While those in the boats watched, appalled, the ship tilted steadily toward the vertical. At 2:20 AM, with a great moaning sigh as the remaining airspace was displaced by water, a sigh which survivors would later describe as sounding like the dying breath of some immense wounded beast, the gigantic ship slid beneath the surface. In the eerie silence that followed, all that could be heard were muffled sobs of grief from the boats, and the faint cries for help uttered by the few who had had strength enough to jump off and swim away from the ship.
"On one such boat, those aboard could hear the pleas for help from a man quite near in the water. The crewmen warned him off, saying that the boat was in danger of swamping as it was, and that they would not put everyone at further risk by trying to pull him in. As his voice became weaker, his strength ebbing away in the icy water, one woman near the bow decided she could not sit silently listening as he perished. 'Oh, please,' she cried, 'can we who have been spared by the merciful hand of God turn our backs on one who needs rescue as much as we? For God's sake, let us take him in!'
"Reluctantly, the crewmen gave in, and ever so carefully pulled the man into the boat, where he lay, exhausted and shivering, at their feet."1
As the morning light shattered the darkness of the tragic night before, the people in the lifeboats were greatly relieved and overjoyed to see the Carpathia which had sped to their rescue when they heard the distress signal from the sinking Titanic. However, none were as grateful and overcome with emotion as those in the lifeboat who had reluctantly rescued the swimmer who cried for help. To their utter amazement they discovered that the man they had saved—the man for whom the woman in the bow plead—was none other than her own husband!
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