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The Terrifying Tragedy of the Titanic

This article was published in the Yiddish-language Forward on April 16, 1912.

The death throes of 1,254 people accompanied the mighty ship to its watery grave—Its first journey is its last—Its remarkable beginning is its sad end—Ships arrive too late to help—The Carpathia finds more than 800 women and children in lifeboats.

Yesterday at 7.30 p.m., the management of the White Star Line finally determined that the mighty steamship Titanic, the largest passenger ship ever built, had sunk mid-sea and, as the ship went down, between 1,200 and 1,300 people drowned.

Last Wednesday, the ship left on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England with nearly 2,200 passengers and crew aboard. According to the latest telegraph reports, 866 of the passengers are confirmed rescued. The steamship Carpathia, the first to arrive at the disaster site, found survivors floating in several lifeboats and took them aboard. Nearly all those saved were women and children.

By the time the Carpathia arrived, no remnant remained of the Titanic. She is assumed to have sunk around 2 a.m. after hitting an iceberg at 20 minutes before 11 on Sunday night. So far as can be detailed from the telegrams she sent, she remained on the water less than four hours after that occurred. The Carpathia arrived there at dawn.

Several hours later, two additional large ships, the Parisian and the Virginian, followed. No details have yet ensued, but little hope remains of their finding anyone alive to be rescued. Hope is so minimal that even the management of the ship company can hardly be said to have any.

News of the sinking of the Titanic and of the rescue efforts by the Carpathia was sent by the Olympic, which was the last ship to arrive at the disaster site. Nothing was mentioned about the Parisian and the Virginian, however, except for the news that the Carpathia has 866 rescued passengers aboard.

The following figures were released semi-officially by the ship company:

First-class passengers — 325
Second-class passengers — 285
Third-class passengers — 710
Crew — 800
Total — 2,120
Rescued by the Carpathia — 866
Assumed dead — 1,254

Among the first-class passengers are prominent British and American citizens such as Mr. and Mrs. [John] Jacob Astor, Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Straus, and well-known London editor [William Thomas] Stead.

The following are telegrams about the accident:

Cape Race, Newfoundland, April 15 — The Olympic confirms via wireless telegraph the arrival of the Carpathia at the site where the Titanic hit an iceberg. There, the Carpathia found only lifeboats and pieces of the ship.

The Titanic was sunk by forceful waves by 2:30 a.m. She was carrying approximately 2,100 passengers.

The ship California is currently at the site of the accident. She is searching the surrounding area and may perhaps find more people floating in lifeboats. The Carpathia is sailing to New York presently with the rescued passengers on board.

No telegram has been received regarding the Virginian or the Parisian. It appears that aside from the Carpathia, no other ship has rescued passengers.

St. Johns, Newfoundland, April 15—The steamship Virginian is presently at the accident site. She will return tomorrow morning, bringing all the passengers she was able to rescue. She is a mail ship and can’t spend much time there. The ship the Parisian will likely remain at the site longer. From reports that both ships have sent, it appears they have not rescued anyone from the water.

This morning, the ship company in New York received a list of the rescued who are now aboard the Carpathia. Names of the rescued are those of women and children. Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Henry B. Harris, wife of the famous theater manager, were among those rescued. The names of Mr. and Mrs. Straus were not on the list. It’s likely that Mrs. Straus didn’t want to evacuate the ship without her husband, and drowned along with him. Mr. [Bruce] Ismay, president of the ship company that owns the Titanic, is among the rescued passengers.

The ship company’s management insisted last night in New York that all the passengers would be rescued. Reports they gave to newspapers assured the public that there was nothing to fear. Firstly, they said, the ship is built in such a way that she is unsinkable in all circumstances. Secondly, they listed the many ships that set out to help the ill-fated Titanic and that surely would be able to rescue everyone.

A telegram received last night from the Captain of the Olympic extinguished that hope. For a short while, the management attempted to find comfort in the notion that perhaps the other two ships, the Virginia and the Parisian, had been able to rescue some passengers. But shortly thereafter they came to see that this was baseless. At 9 p.m., they admitted that the ship had sunk and that only one third of the passengers had been rescued.

At 11 p.m., several shocked, crying women and men, including John Jacob Astor’s son, Vincent, came to the company’s office to inquire about their friends and loved ones. The vice president of the company took Vincent Astor into his office and kept him in there a long time. When the young man returned outside to the street, he appeared to have been crying.

After him, the vice president received Sylvester Barnes, Isidor Straus’s private secretary, who told reporters that Straus’s son is also at sea, and will be arriving in New York aboard the ship the America.

The Titanic was the largest and strongest ship on the Atlantic Ocean. She was a veritable palace, an immense, aristocratic hotel with all the amenities and luxuries. It cost $7.5 million dollars to build. Everyone was certain that even the greatest storm and mightiest waves could not harm her. Her captain, [Edward John] Smith, was the oldest, most talented and experienced man in his field. He sailed many ships across the Atlantic Ocean over the last 40 years, all without incident.

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