a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tales told by Titanic survivors from Pennsylvania

The Titanic prior to its deadly voyage a century ago.

By Scott Beveridge

MONESSEN, Pa. – Survivors of the Titanic interviewed by local newspapers a century ago told stories every bit as dramatic as the Oscar-winning movie, which will be rereleased in 3D Friday

Mrs. John Panula of Coal Center, Pa., had a much more tragic story to tell than young Rose, a role in the movie played by Kate Winslet, who was passed over for best actress in the 1998 Oscars.

Mrs. Panula and her children had returned in 1910 to Finland to sell off family real estate to purchase a new home for her family in Coal Center. She survived the ship's sinking but her five children, who were between the ages of 1 and 17, were buried in the depths of the sea, The Reporter of Washington reported April 23, 1912.

She was among five Finlanders aboard the doomed Titanic who made it to Monessen, Westmoreland County, eight days after being rescued at sea.

The mother, who also was identified in the newspaper as Mrs. Peter Panula, had little to say in the article. About half of the $4,000 raised in the property sale went down with the Titanic, she told a reporter

"She could scarcely remember how she lost her five children...she was unconscious for a time but states she rallied in time to see the Titanic go down," the newspaper reported.

Another member of the party, Ellen Ajkarainer, said she saw men don women's clothing to secure places on lifeboats.

The five Finlanders were among a party of 45 from that country headed for the United States, but only 20 were listed among the Titanic's 711 survivors.

Another survivor from the group, Eino Lindquist, had the most thrilling story to relate, The Independent of Monessen reported.

Lindquist said waves washed him into the ocean just before the ship sank and he said good-bye to his companion, Mr. Hakkarainen.

"Being a fairly good swimmer, I exerted myself to the utmost and was able to reach the last lifeboat which was about 200 yards from where the ship went down and was taken on board," Lindquist, who was about 25 at the time, told the former Monessen newspaper.

Before the ship went under water, he said he watched the last lifeboat put off and "many men make a vain effort to find a place on it, but they were clubbed by sailors in charge and some fell to a watery grave before the ship took its final plunge." The band was not playing until the very end, as was reported at the time, he stated.

There were numerous false reports in local newspapers in the days after the ship sank about 2:20 a.m. April 15, 1912.

A day after the Titanic sank, the first report in The Reporter in Washington had all passengers surviving and the great ship being towed to Halifax, Canada.

"The Titanic is practically unsinkable...of such construction that she is virtually indestructible and would float indefinitely even with her bow smashed," P.A. Franklin, vice president of the company that owned the ship, was quoted as saying in the former newspaper's April 15, 1912, afternoon edition.

The headline on the front-page story published about 12 hours after the vessel sank and buried 1,513 people at sea read: "All of her passengers were taken off in lifeboats."

A day later, the newspaper wrongly reported that no men had survived the tragedy. The death toll also changed daily.

The means of communication at the time was primitive and it was common for news stories to change from minute to minute, said Alan Natali, an assistant professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania.

"There was a tendency at that time to fill column inches, even if that reporter had to make that information up," Natali said.

He said reporters had to wait for the survivors to make it home before learning more about what happened when the Titanic struck the iceberg just before midnight April 14, 1912, about 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada.

The other survivors who made it to Monessen were listed as Mrs. Mathew Hirvonen, her daughter, Hilda, and Eric Jussila.

(This story has been edited since it first appeared in 1998 in the Observer-Reporter.)


The computer Master said...

Wow, powerful!

Hampers said...

I can't even begin to imagine what that must be like to survive and your children not. It is just awfull!