April 14 and 15 mark the 60th anniversary of the sinking of the liner Titanic. The ship struck an iceberg the night of April 14, 1912, and sank a few hours later the morning of April 15. A survivor of that disaster, who has made Ashtabula her home for 60 years, tells her remembrances of that night.
Titanic: a memory of 60 years
by Ann Olekshuk
The green coast line of Ireland slipped from view.
The great passenger liner sped on through the waters of the North Atlantic; her destination: New York City. It was April 11, 1912, an important day for the mighty ship. It was her maiden voyage.
The sunlight glinted on the letters of her name on her towering bow--"Titanic."
She carried with her more than 2,200 passengers, among them a young 18-year-old Finnish-girl, Anna Turja, a third class (steerage) passenger. The ship, however, did not carry enough lifeboats for all on board.
The young girl left home in Finland and was on her way to Ashtabula to the home of her sister, Mrs. Mary Lundi, now deceased. The young girl on the Titanic was later to become the wife of Mrs. Lundi's brother-in-law, Emil, and the mother of seven children.
(Left) GRATITUDE TO God for sparing her life and granting her 60 happy years of life in Ashtabula brings a happy smile to the lips of Mrs. Lundi, who survived the death throes of the great passenger liner Titanic. "I am thankful to God for guiding my life and protecting me for the past 60 years," said Mrs. Lundi, who was a girl of 18 years when she sailed on the Titanic.
But before reaching Ashtabula and the welcoming arms of her family, young Anna Turja, whom we will now refer to as Mrs. Emil (Anna) Lundi, was to undergo one of the most terrifying experiences of her life.
First, second and third class passengers and the crew reveled in the belief that their ship was "unsinkable." It is claimed by historians that one person said, "God Himself could not sink this ship."
Prior to boarding the Titanic on April 10, Mrs. Lundi took a boat from Finland to Southampton, England. There she got on the Titanic. The vessel then sailed to Cherbourg, France, to pick up more passengers and then to, Queenstown, Ireland, to pick up the rest of the passengers. Then on April 11 the Titanic sailed into the ice-infested waters of the North Atlantic for New York. On and on the Titanic plunged at nearly top speed despite ice warnings from the liners Caronia, Baltic, Amerika, California and Mesaba.
Mrs. Lundi described the Titanic as a beautiful ship, "just like a town, lacking nothing." There were swimming pools, concert halls and libraries. The third class accommodations were beautiful, she said.
Mrs. Lundi said,she shared a room with three other persons. There were two double bunk beds, one on either side of the room. One of the persons was a Finnish woman who had "taken the young Anna Turja under her wing." The other two were a mother and her young baby.
Mrs. Lundi, who will be 79 years old June 20, said she had just gotten ready for bed and was not quite asleep when the ship hit the iceberg, the night of April 14.
Upon hitting the berg, Mrs. Lundi said, the ship "shook and shuddered." But she said she was not afraid, as she, along with most of the other passengers believed the Titanic could not sink.
Then a brother of the Finnish woman who was Mrs. Lundi's roommate knocked on their cabin door and told them the ship had struck an iceberg. The Finnish woman made Mrs. Lundi put on her life preserver. Mrs. Lundi said she would put it on but that she wouldn't be needing it. The Ashtabulan also said there was no confusion on the ship at first because most of the passengers were not aware of what had actually happened.
Decked out in her life preserver and bundled up in all her warmest clothing, as that is what she was instructed to do, Mrs. Lundi and her friends left their room and went to the concert hall where an orchestra was playing. There they sat listening to the music.
Then she said some crew members came in, stopped the concert and locked up the concert hall doors and ordered them to go up on deck. The woman companion of Mrs. Lundi urged her to go up to the higher deck where "she would be safer." However, Mrs. Lundi decided to go back down to the boat deck where many persons were gathering. This decision saved her life.
Mrs Lundi said another reason she left the top deck was because of the extreme cold there. So she went to the lower deck.
The temperature of the Atlantic was now at 31 degrees.
The woman who had looked after Mrs. Lundi drowned, as did another Finnish woman and her six children. This other woman, mother of the six youngsters, had already lost a son who had been drowned in Finland. It is reported that the unfortunate woman said, "My God, are we all to be drowned?" The husband of that woman with the six children, who lived near Ashtabula, had earlier come to this country and was awaiting the arrival of the rest of his brood on the Titanic. He waited in vain.
On the boat deck, awaiting her turn to get into the lifeboat, Mrs. Lundi said she "could see the lights of another ship not too far away on the horizon." Historians of the disaster say this ship was the liner Californian, which had shut down its wireless (telegraph) and did not hear the distress SOS and frantic calls for help from the stricken White Star Liner Titanic.
The Ashtabula woman said that as she stood on the boat deck, a crew member (she never learned his name) grabbed her and placed her into one of the last lifeboats to leave the now sinking Titanic.
Mrs. Lundi, now in the lifeboat pulling away from the stricken liner, said she saw the Titanic nosing down into the water. She said her lifeboat was so heavily laden with people that the rim of the boat was only inches above water. She attributed the seamanship and oar handling of the crew members on her lifeboat as having kept them from capsizing into the icy-slushy water.
The fortunate Ashtabulan said the lights on the Titanic stayed on until almost the very end. Then as the liner plunged further into the sea, the great boilers exploded and the lights dimmed forever. However, she said she could see the ship slipping beneath the waters, as the night was clear. She said she could hear the gurgling of the ship as it filled with water and the mighty suction of the sinking caused waves to stop about her lifeboat. Of the more than 2,200 persons aboard the Titanic more than 1,500 Perished. Mrs. Lundi was among about 700 who survived.
In another book about the sinking, "A Night to Remember," there is a complete passenger list of the lives saved and lost. Under the third class passenger section, listed under "non-British, embarked at Southampton," is the name of Anna Turja (Mrs. Lundi). However, in the book her last name was misspelled as Turgo.
She was able to withstand the piercing cold while in the lifeboat because she had dressed warmly. Mrs. Lundi said the memories she will never forget are the cries, screams and pleadings of the unfortunate people struggling in the icy water who were begging for help. But her boat, already loaded to the brim, could do nothing to save them.
The people's cries for help died out one by one in the icy, pitch-black night as the Titanic survivors in the lifeboats awaited the rescue ships which were speeding towards them. Historians said that some occupants in lifeboats beat off swimmers with oars who were trying to board the overloaded boats. However, Mrs. Lundi said this did not happen in her lifeboat. To have overloaded the boats would have meant losing even more lives, writers have said.
She said as the night wore on, the lifeboats drifted further away from each other. People lit dollar bills and other items to signal to the other lifeboats as to their positions.
Then the morning of April 15 the small Cunard liner Carpathia arrived and picked up about 700 survivors from the now distantly scattered lifeboats. The Carpathia took the survivors to New York, where Mrs. Lundi recuperated in a Catholic hospital before beginning a train ride to Ashtabula. She said the survivors did not have to stop at Ellis Island, where usually immigrants from other countries had to pass through before being admitted to the "land of plenty."
She lost all her possessions when the liner went down. But she said generous persons donated money and clothing and she was then able to take a train to Ashtabula. Mrs. Lundi said the train stopped in Pittsburgh on its way to Ashtabula and during the stop, people "regarded her as a celebrity because she was a survivor."
Mrs. Lundi described the sinking by speaking in her native Finnish, as she could more easily describe the events of that night. Her son, Paul Lundi, Ashtabula, acted as interpreter during the interview for The Star-Beacon.
When a movie about the sinking was shown at a local theatre, Mrs. Lundi and her family were honored guests of the showing. She said the movie versions of the beauty of the ship and the sinking were quite authentic.
Mrs. Lundi and those of many nationalities--Irish, English, Norwegians, Americans, Swedes, Danes, Russians, Finns, Poles, Dutchmen, Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, Roumanians, Arabs, Chinese and many others, the rich, the middle class and the poor, shared that harrowing night off the Grand Banks of New Foundland were the Titanic, her side slashed open by a jagged iceberg, plunged to a watery grave.
A woman of magnificent faith, the member of Zion Lutheran Church said, "I am thankful to God for guiding my life and protecting my life for the past 60 years since the Titanic was lost."
"God Himself, could not sink this ship," someone is reported to have boasted. Perhaps God, the Father of all peoples, regardless of nationality, race, creed or color, heard those words. Perhaps that jagged iceberg, mostly hidden underwater, just happened to loom before the mighty vessel for a reason. It is food for thought.
(Right) ONE OF MANY books written about the ill-fated liner is read by Mrs. Lundi, 1459 W. 9th St., and her son, Paul Lundi, also of Ashtabula. The book's title is indeed appropriate--"The Maiden Voyage," as the Titanic went to her ocean grave on her maiden voyage.
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