Memories Of Titanic Unsinkable
April 10, 1995IBy Jon Anderson, Tribune Staff Writer.
Her mother remembered the ice. Huge chunks fell on the third-class deck. People were playing in it until an officer warned them away. In the lifeboat, they were told not to look, but everybody did. They saw the liner go down. �
Just before, they saw Captain Smith, holding a megaphone, yelling across the roiling waters, "Get away from the ship! Get away from the ship!"
In a neat little_house on a tree-lined street in Elgin, an elderly woman, now slowed by arthritis, told what she remembered-and has been told-about that ocean voyage. That includes her mother's story of how their dining-room steward had banged on their cabin door and said: "Put on your coats and follow me. There isn't any time to lose. The ship is sinking."
It will be 83 years ago this Monday that Eleanor Shuman set out from Southampton, England, on the most famous ship in history, a doomed ocean lin& built for a thousand crossings of the Atlantic but unable to complete even one.
"I have a memory," she began, as a reporter probed her for details of a night that she does not care to remember. "I was being held in my mother's arms," she said. "I was at a great height. I was crying. People were screaming. They were yelling. There was so much confusion."
These days, far from any ocean, a portrait of a majestic, four-funnelled ship-the R.M.S. Titanic-hangs on the wall of Shuman's living room, over "my Titanic corner," as she calls her collection of books on the disaster.
One of two surviving Titanic passengers known to be living in the United States, Shuman, now 84, was 18 months old on that clear, starlit evening of April 14, 1912, when the Titanic entered a thick field of ice, steaming at 23 knots, declining to slow down, determined to set a speed record to New York.
There have been worse maritime disasters, but none has ever had the haunting symbolism of what followed, almost 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, a brutal collision between Man and Nature described by Canadian poet E.J. Pratt in his epic ode, "The Titanic."
The iceberg, Pratt wrote, was born alone, in the stark isolation of the Arctic. Barely chipped, it sailed south after the crash, to melt. The ship, 882 feet long, 11 decks high, built by 17,000 workers, pronounced unsinkable, suffered a long tear in its hull. Its wreckage took hours to sink 2 1/2 miles to the floor of Canada's Grand Banks, a region of abysmal darkness, intense pressures and nearlyoblind ratfish.
That night, 1,522 people died. Only 20 lifeboats, the number required by regulations, plus some collapsible canvas dinghies, were on board for 2,227 passengers and crew.
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