|We all know the story and the fate of the famous Titanic, thanks to fellow Canadians James Cameron who made the extraordinary movie and CÚline Dion who sang the theme song. But not many of us know what role Halifax has played in the hours after the tragedy. |
Titanic left Southampton (UK) with over
2 200 people onboard (passengers and crew alike) on April 10, 1912.
Four days later, at a time close to midnight, she encountered the
fatal iceberg. Although the accident took place very late on the
14th, she officially sank past 2 AM. That's why all
tombstones are inscribed with the date of the April 15, since most
died of hypothermia in the ice-cold water of the Northern Atlantic
Out of the 2 200 people, 700 survivors
were brought to New York City by the Carpentia. Having offices in
Halifax, the Cunard company dispatched four Canadian boats to the
area of the accident to recover bodies. They found 328, which were
brought back to Halifax. Cunard didn't pay for the bodies to be
returned to their home country... all the expenses were at the charge
of the families. Many families couldn't gather the required money to
bring the body of their loved ones homes... so they were buried here
in Halifax. Cunard paid only for a basic tombstone, if the family
wanted more, they had to pay themselves.
Those who were believed to be
protestant were buried in what's now know as the Fairview Lawn
Cemetery in the Northern part of the city. Some bodies were never
identified, including the one of a child. Most of the people buried
here however have names, based on body marks or personal belongings.
The tombstones were positioned to
replicate the bow of a ship, with the exterior rows curving to meet
at the end. On the engravings, in addition to the date and the name
(if known), you'll see a number representing the order in which the
body was recovered from sea.
One interesting note... you'll mostly
see men buried here. Why? First, because they represented about 75%
of the people on board... and during the evacuation, the crew did
give priority to women and children.
The site is simple and lets you reflect
on the horrible accident... all those lives lost because of human
vanity and the chase for honours. You think about all those
families who died on that night, scared and cold in total darkness.
But you also have to think about the heroes: those musicians who
played up to the very last moment, those crew members who gave away
their floatation jackets to passengers and countless other similar
stories. When human pride caused a disaster, heroism saved the day
for a few of them.