On April 15, 1912, the passenger ship RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, and sank. 1,517 people died in one of the worst maritime disasters in history. 66 years later, a celebration is held in Los Angeles to honor the survivors and those who lost their lives in the tragic sinking of the "unsinkable" cruise liner.
History Buffs, Survivors Celebrate Titanic Anniversary
TOM BROKAW, anchor:
And it was 66 years ago that the big news was the sinking of the unsinkable, the new cruise ship, the Titanic. It was one of the most dramatic news events, one of the most dramatic tragedies of all time. But the memory of the event lives on, and we get more of that now from Susan Hahn and an unusual reunion of the survivors of the Titanic.
SUSAN HAHN reporting:
The date, April 10th, 1912, the maiden voyage of the Titanic begins. More than 2,000 people were on board the ship, the ship the builders said couldn’t sink. But sink it did, after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic. More than fifteen- hundred people died, so what do you do to commemorate this? Well, if you’re in Los Angeles last Friday night, you throw a party.
The man who staged this bash says it’s a tribute to those who survived and those who didn’t.
CHARLES SACHS (Lecturer/Historian): That’s why it was such an incredible night. They didn’t really realize the ship was sinking and then when it was sinking, Mrs. Strauss refused to leave her husband. She had said, “Since I’ve been with you so long, I’m not going to leave you now,” and here they own Macy’s department store and she was lost. John Jacob Astor, worth 150 million dollars, his wife did get in the lifeboat and was saved, and he was lost. Of the newly-weds on board, I believe only two or three newly-wed couples were saved, all the rest were lost, they refused to leave their husbands. So it was a very tragic night, and yet very heroic for some of the deeds that were done by the passengers. And many of the people wouldn’t leave. Captain Smith was lost with the ship. He delayed his retirement just to take this voyage for the White Star Line as a favor and he was going to be made Commodore at the end of the voyage. So he took the voyage and it was his last voyage.
HAHN: Why is it that you came tonight?
Unidentified Man: Well, I came tonight because I’ve had an interest in old ships. As they always say, things aren’t done these days as they use to be done. The luxury of the old days is completely lost and it’s really a remembrance to the Titanic, and that’s why I’m here and in full regalia. If we’re going to go down at the Biltmore tonight, we might as well go down with some class.
Unidentified Woman: I read it in the newspaper, and mentioned it, and we decided why not, it would be fun to come and dress up and see what it was like.
Unidentified Man: That was the prerequisite, we had to be in costume, or otherwise we wouldn’t go.
Unidentified Woman: It just seems like a really exciting evening, how often do you come to an affair where you’re all dressed up and celebrating something historical?
Unidentified Woman: And I’m just fascinated by the Titanic. I’ve heard so many stories. It’s a good opportunity to eat well, have fun and know a little bit more about this really interesting thing.
Unidentified Man: Well, I have attended the last three of these and it is very meaningful as a history buff and especially very much interested in the ship.
HAHN: Joyce, what brought you out here tonight?
Unidentified Woman: Actually, I have a very deep interest in the Titanic and I was interested in seeing what really went on and I understand they have guest speakers.
HAHN: And yourself?
Unidentified Man: Me? Because I love the age of elegance, that it was, and it’s gone now, and you can’t bring it back, but it’s a one night in LA, where ever in the world can you have one night of elegance where you dress up and not in Levis and the long hair bit, so, it’s a fun event.
HAHN: Another attraction, the appearance of three survivors, now 66 years later, only 15 are still alive.
TITANIC SURVIVOR: I’m a cold kind of a person, you know, and I just thought, “This is it, I’m going to have a watery grave.”
HAHN: What do people say when you tell them that you’re a survivor?
EDWINA MACKENZIE (Titanic Survivor): They say, “Are you kiddn’?” And I said, “Well, that’s my name, now. Are you kiddin’?” In New York, when I was introduced to anyone, they all said, “Oh, God bless you.” And here they say, “Oh, you’re kiddin’. ”
HAHN: Does it bother to be celebrating that disaster?
MACKENZIE: Doesn’t look like it, does it? It’s made me what I am today.
HAHN: Five members of the Kravitz family were on board. They all survived. Two of the sisters attended the Titanic party.
GERTRUDE FRIEDMAN (Titanic Survivor): When that ship went down, I really don’t remember, I just huddle up close to my mother and we had to be on the floor there. Lucky we had those quilts and she had shawls, you know, those heavy shawls that they wear, and we were covered up.
HAHN: Is tonight a celebration for you?
MOLLY CHOLDER (Titanic Survivor): By all means it is. To have lived and survived and be at 75, interviewed, how I feel about it, I think it’s a wonderful feeling.
HAHN: You feel the same way?
FRIEDMAN: I do too. I’m glad I’m living. Getting into that water wouldn’t help me any. I didn’t know how to swim.
FRIEDMAN: Glad to be a alive.
HAHN: Many heroic acts were performed that night. A fearless performance by the ship’s orchestra was one of them. In an effort to calm the passengers, the band never stopped playing, even though that ship was swaying. From Los Angeles, Susan Hahn, NBC News.
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