Just as the world is grappling with the terrible tragedy of the downing of Lufthansa Germanwings flight 9525 in the French Alps, so the 103rd anniversary of another huge tragedy which affected NYC is almost due. On the 18th April 1912 the ship RMS Carpathia came into New York harbor and docked at Pier 54. On board were 712 survivors from the worst maritime tragedy ever at that time. Three days earlier the RMS Titanic had sunk in the North Atlantic Ocean after a fatal collision with an iceberg. Over 1500 people were killed when it happened and the ship sank.
When the Carpathia docked in NYC there was a throng of press people eager for all the details and another 40,000 people just standing in the pouring rain to greet her, many of them family members of passengers. Most of the people on board had lost everything. The New York Women’s Relief Committee, the Travelers Aid Society of New York, the Council of Jewish Women and many others were on hand giving out clothing and helping people to get transport to wherever that had planned to go if they had arrived without the Titanic having gone down.
People who had relatives or friends on the ship had waited since the news of the Titanic’s sinking to get news of the fate of their loved ones. But it took 4 days for authoritites to compile an accurate list of those on board the Carpathia and then post it. It was an agonizing wait and it was only once it was up, was it known who had died.
Apart from the work of Aid Societies, ordinary New Yorkers rallied to help in much the same way as they do now. Two opera stars, Enrico Caruso and Mary Garden with the support of the Metropolitan Opera Company gave a series of benefit concerts and raised $12,000. It was all given to those survivors who were now destitute. In addition rewards were given to the Captain and crew of the Carpathia who had rescued so many and brought them safely into NYC.
Most of the dead who were able to be pulled from the sea, 550 of them, were buried in Fairview cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 9 were buried in Green Wood Cemetary in Brooklyn and a further 12 were buried in Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx. The most well known of those is Isidor Straus, part owner of Macy’s at the time of his death. He and his wife were both on the Titanic and his wife Ida was offered a seat in a lifeboat. She declined choosing instead to die with her husband. Inscribed on his grave and her Cenotaph are the words from the ‘Song of Songs’ ‘Many waters cannot quench our love – neither can floods drown it’