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Titanic continued to dominate news

Published April 28. 2012 09:02AM

Days and even weeks after the sinking of the Titanic on its maiden voyage in the Atlantic, the story continued to captivate readers who quickly snapped up copies of their local newspaper to learn more about the disaster.

The Tamaqua Courier found several Schuylkill County connections to the story which cost the lives of 1,514 people. First, it was reported that Peter Greenburg of Shenandoah received the sad news that his brother, Simon Greenburg of New York, was among the victims who perished on the night of April 15. He had been a frequent visitor to the coal regions to see his sibling.

Also, it was reported that Louis Eber, a regional representative of the White Star Line based in Pottsville, had previously attended a banquet in New York City, where Edward J. Smith, soon to be named the Titanic's captain, was a featured speaker. Eber said that during that speech, Smith expressed a wish that he would become commander of the mighty luxury liner.

He remembered Smith adding a somewhat prophetic line when he stated that Titanic would be the last ship he would ever sail on.

During personal trials brought by world wars and national tragedies like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, people tend to take added interest in spiritual matters. Local pastors saw this after Titanic as more people were drawn to attend church services.

Within a week after the sinking, memorial services were held at a number of churches in Tamaqua.

"The Titanic disaster has cast a gloom over the entire world because of the untimely departure of more than 1,500 human souls," a Courier writer stated. "Everywhere, prayers will be offered for the surviving relatives of those who went down with the big liner and for those who, though saved, are destitute and suffering."

In the Bethany United Evangelical Church, Rev. James Daniel Kistler preached on "Valuable Lessons from the Titanic Disaster" while Rev. Nicholas spoke on "The Foundering of the Greatest Vessel" in the Primitive Methodist Church, and Rev. Futcher spoke at the Methodist Episcopal Church on "The Toll of the Sea."

The Courier ran a letter to the editor on its front page from E.G. Walters, who placed the sinking of the Titanic in biblical context. This came amid reports circulating in the press that someone, in speaking about Titanic being unsinkable, purportedly claimed that "God himself couldn't sink this ship."

Today, historians agree that the statement may have been a fabrication. After researching the claim, Titanic author and historian George Behe says it's possible that the statement about Titanic being unsinkable may have actually been made after the disaster.

In his letter to the Courier editor, Walter presented a scriptural thesis on the Titanic.

"No doubt many of your readers are wondering what part God had in the sinking of the Titanic," he wrote. "Our reply, based on scriptures, is God had nothing whatever to do with it."

After presenting his scripture verses, Walters concluded, "No, the Titanic dead, as well as all other dead, have not been caught in a lottery trap, or missed a lottery trap salvation. In the judgment day, all will come forth under infinitely more favorable conditions and after full opportunity and light, be tested for everlasting life, as was Adam."

In an editorial titled "Safer in Water Travel," a Courier writer said the Titanic disaster serves notice that there are dangers to be addressed in ship travel.

"The government should see that there are lifeboats enough to protect every passenger by water," the writer said.

He was impressed by reports of men sacrificing lifeboat seats for women and children, but more than one not-so-heroic male reportedly disguised himself as a woman in order to board a lifeboat. Contrary to some media reports, however, Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, was not one of them.

In the ensuing investigation, it was widely felt that Ismay should have gone down with the ship solely because he was the president of the shipping line. Ismay claimed that he was traveling as a passenger, not as a steamship line president.

One Mass. survivor, Anne Germyn, stated that persons traveling in steerage, which was the least expensive class, fared worst during the disaster. She claimed that many of those passengers were locked in their quarters and could not get out in time before the ship went down.

Another steerage passenger, Annie Kelly, said that the stewards not only did not wake the steerage passengers with an alarm but told stressed third class passengers who came up to the deck to go back down since there was no danger.

First Class women and children made up about six percent of those aboard the Titanic, but constituted 20 percent of the survivors. In contrast, steerage passengers were a third of all aboard, but only one fourth of those were saved.

Germyn, 23, also witnessed the panic and horror on deck while trying to board her own lifeboat.

"She said that a man, who had jumped into the boat she was in, was shot through the head and dropped into the ocean," the Courier reported.

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