There is another reason I am so interested in the story of the Titanic. Just one and a half months before the Titanic, March 1, 1912 to be precise, my grandpa boarded a ship and sailed to America to start a new life. He was just sixteen years old. It is hard to imagine by today's standards - a sixteen year old boy making that kind of life changing decision, and his parents allowing it to happen. But life in 1912 was different than life in the year 2012. At sixteen my grandpa was considered to be a man, not a boy. This was my grandpa's house in Denmark. (This picture was taken many years after my grandpa lived there, thus the bike in front of the house.)
My grandpa was from the small Danish island of Aero. His family was quite large, which was more common than not at the turn of the last century. Three of his siblings had already immigrated to the United States, and my grandpa desperately wanted to join them. It was decided that his oldest sister Christine, the one discussed in this post, would loan him the money he needed for his fare, and he would pay the fare off by working on her farm.
When I think about the Titanic, and those who went down with her in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, I think of all the stories that ended in that moment. More than 1500 people died, and of those more than 1000 were immigrants just like my grandpa. There were people from at least 28 countries on board that ship. We tend to think of the passengers as being Americans, Irish and British. While these were definitely the majority of the passengers, there were also people from countries as diverse as China, Mexico, Turkey and Spain. Out of the ten Danes on board only one survived. There were just fourteen survivors out of the thirty-four Canadians. The only country with a 100% survival rate was Japan - the lone Japanese passenger having somehow managed to make it off the ship before it went down.
This is the ship my grandpa sailed on.
|The Oscar 2|
My grandpa made it to America. The dreams he had as a sixteen year old boy came true. He eventually had his own farm. I have talked about that farm several times on my blog. This is a picture painted from an old black and white photo of my grandpa harvesting wheat.
He got married and raised two children. The boy in the photos is my dad.
Their two sons grew up, and they each had three children. Those six children have gone on to have eleven children. I am sad to say that none of these eleven ever had the privilege of meeting their great grandfather. He was a kind and generous man, and his story is an inextricable part of each of their stories.
The immigrants on The Oscar 2 all had a chance to live out their dreams. Their stories continued. An obscure ship sailing across the cold Atlantic just six weeks before the doomed Titanic. Both ships heading to New York. One sailing into port, the other sinking off the coast of Newfoundland. One famous, the other I am quite sure you had never heard of before this blog post. Quiet success has a way of staying out of the history books.