The Titanic- Part 2

As Margaret sat down for dinner on the night of 14th April, 1912 her friend Mrs. Bucknell who was with her on the table said, “I had a premonition that something is going to happen to the ship.” Margaret joined with others on the table and laughed at her. Mrs. Bucknell was known for her always tragic premonitions. “The Titanic is unsinkable” Margaret reminded her. She told her that they were a part of history and she should enjoy it while she can. After dinner they retired to the cabin for a night’s sleep, complaining about how cold it was on the deck.

Dinner on the Titanic. It was a lavish affair.

Margaret was reading a book by her window, when the iceberg hit the Titanic for the first time. Margaret fell on the ground. “Picking myself up I proceeded to see what the steamer had hit. On emerging from the room I found men in the gangway in their pyjamas. They while standing were chaffing each other, one of them remarked, “Are you prepared to swim in those things?” referring to the pyjamas.The women were standing in their kimonos. All seemed to be quietly listening and thinking that nothing serious had happened, though realising that the engines had stopped immediately after the crash and the ship was standstill.” 

An artist’s impression of the Titanic sinking in the newspaper next day.

After confirming that everything was alright, Margaret returned to her cabin and got back to her book. She looked through the curtain. The sea looked calm and the sky bright with the stars shinning on the palace of the sea. After 15 mins the ship’s engines remained shut and she couldn’t hear any chatter in the corridor. She opened the door. “I looked out and saw a man whose face was blanched, his eyes protruding, wearing the look of a haunted creature. “Get your life-saver.” he yelled. Snatching up fur and placing a skill capote on my head, I hurriedly mounted the stairs to A deck, and there I found possibly fifty passengers all putting their life-belts.”  When Margaret reached the A deck, Mrs Bucknell was right there looking terrified, looking at Margaret with an expression that said, “I told you so.”  On the deck there was a lot of commotion. There were people running around everywhere and the life-boats were being lowered from the falls. Margaret wanted to the check if the lower decks where the poorer people stayed were getting any help. Just then she met Madame DeViller of Paris who was in her night-gown and running to get her money and jewellery back from her room. Margaret told her not to go and rush to the lifeboat instead. She assured her that this was just a safety measure and she would be brought back to the Titanic later.

Most of these life-boats left the Titanic almost empty. The staff was not really trained for a situation like this. Titanic was said to be unsinkable and nobody ever thought it would.

As Margaret started walking to the other side of the ship to check on the lowers decks, “Suddenly I saw a shadow and a few seconds later, I was taken hold of and with the words”You are going too.” I was dropped fully four feet into the lowering life boat. I just saw one man in charge of the boat.”  As the boat went down Margaret heard the sound of music being played. She thought to herself how could the musicians build up courage to play music when their life was in grave danger. As she looked up she saw the captain of the ship standing and looking down at them, “As we reached the sea as smooth as glass, we looked up and saw the benign, resigned countenance and the Chesterfieldian bearing of our beloved Captain. He looked down upon us a beloved father, directing us to row to the light in the distance.”

The captain of the Titanic Edward Smith and his team.

Margaret’s boat had fourteen women and just one man who was rowing the boat. Margaret realised that it was impossible to depend on him to row them to safety. She took the oar in her hands and asked a young girl on the boat to help her. They rowed as fast as they could. By the time they were a little away from the ship they saw that the E and the C deck had completely submerged. The music grew fainter and finally stopped. As they went further away from the Titanic, she saw horrible things. Men and women jumping from all over. Some of them trying to jump on the lifeboats and failing.  The biggest problems of the rescue efforts of the Titanic was that most of the lifeboats  left the ship empty. Margaret’s boat had only 15 people when it could easily fit in 15-20 more. After about an hour after they left the Titanic they heard a loud thud. The Titanic had vanished and nothing remained. It was so calm that it scared Margaret. She told the quarterback of the ship that it was only appropriate to row the boat back towards the Titanic. There would be a lot of people still swimming and alive. Nobody listened to her even after a lot of persuasion from Margaret. After almost 10 hours on the boat on a very cold night and very tired arms Margaret finally saw a ship that was coming their way. It was the Carpathia.

I own this paper. It was so cool to get to read this print from 1912.

Once on the Carpathia, Margaret saw and heard horror stories all around. The Carpathia already had passengers on board and the addition of the rescued passengers didn’t make the task very easy. They were low on first-aid supplies, food, water and blankets. Margaret realised that there was no time to sit down and think about the horror. She had to start helping in any way she could. She realised that the most crucial thing to do was to find out and list down the details of the survivors and the family they had missing. She got everything from addresses to telephone numbers. She started making the list.  It was important to send information back home about the list. So she recorded messages on the transistor and spend nights sending information. She also would go around asking survivors what they need and would send the list to the captain by night. She realised that the richest of the people had been rescued and that in this catastrophe it was important to raise money. She herself had lost all her gowns, jewellery and money in the Titanic. After a lot of persuasion and effort Margaret was able to raise 10000 dollars from the people on board. In her time on Carpathia she had various experiences. She met a mad women who was running around with strands of her hair in her hand trying to find her baby. In the rescue efforts the women and children were given first preference. A whole lot of them had lost their brothers and husbands. A woman who had thought she had lost her son, found her son at the end of the journey when they reached Newyork. There were a handful of experiences that gave joy, though the majority were devastating.  She adopted three women onboard Titanic and send them a stipend every month till she lived. By the time The Carpathia reached New york Margaret was a hero.

Margaret honoured the crew of Carpathia for the help with the daunting task of helping the survivors of the Titanic. She raised 4500 dollars and distributed them amongst the crew.

After Margaret reached New york she wrote articles for various publications all over the world. She blamed Joseph Ismay, the Managing Director of the White Star Line that forced the captain to overspeed. She openly spoke about how the stewards were selfish and useless because they refused to do their jobs of informing passengers about the life-boats and rescue. She kept working for the women and children to get their compensation from White Star Line long after the world had forgotten about it. Margaret got the Legion of Honor Khighthood from the French Government for the work she had done all her life.

The movie Titanic we saw many years later made by James Cameron has a lot of incidents based on the story told by Margaret. Nobody has told the story of the Titanic like her. The fearless Margaret Brown was remembered as “The Unsinkable Molly” till she lived and after she died. She is not a hero because she survived, but because she wanted to row back the boat to find any survivors, because she worked endlessly to help and raise money for them, because she adopted three women, because she understood that being rich is not about the gowns you wore but about the people you helped when they had lost everything.

Kathy Bates played Margaret in Titanic.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown!!

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