Source: Sherman Publications

News
Memories of Titanic remain

by David Fleet

April 11, 2012

On a warm, sunny October morning Jonathan Schechter and a traveling companion were eating breakfast in a small Halifax, Nova Scotia diner.

“We had just completed a hike near the Bay of Fundy and had a few hours to spend before flying back to Detroit,” said Schechter, a Brandon Township resident and on-call fire department paramedic/firefighter with Brandon Fire.

“The waitress suggested we visit the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, one of three in Halifax where Titanic victims are buried,” he said. “Honestly, we went to Nova Soctia for the hiking and had no idea of the association with the Titanic.”

The northeastern Canadian coast connection to the Titanic tragedy 100 years ago today is still a part of the Halifax cityscape.

Halifax is about 700 miles west of the spot where at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912 the Titanic hit an iceberg. At 2:20 a.m., April 15, the Titanic sank. Of the 2,209 passengers and crew on board, 1,497 lost their lives. While the steamer Carpathia arrived at the site of the sinking on April 17 recovering 712 passengers—the White Star Line dispatched four Canadian ships, including two from Halifax— the CS Mackay-Bennett and the CS Minia, according to the Government of Nova Scotia archives.

The ships returned days later with 209 bodies, victims from the Titanic. Of those recovered, the City of Halifax historical society reports, 19 bodies are in the Catholic Mount Olivet Cemetery, 10 in the Jewish Baron de Hirsch Cemetery, and 121 in non-denominational Fairview Lawn. Others were claimed by family members and transported to other locations.

Walking through the cemetery Schechter recalls an assortment of flowers, small toys and other personal items left on the stones—as visitors still pay their respects a century after the tragedy.

“There are no big signs drawing attention to any of the three cemeteries where Titanic victims are buried—the city did not commercialize the graves,” he added. “It’s a small, very well-kept cemetery on a hill in town.”

The community is very respectful of the connection with Titanic, added Schechter.

“You really felt a physical connection with the Titanic. The short epitaphs on the (tomb) stones were amazing,” he said. “The writing was an older style and was very emotional and descriptive. Perhaps family members reflected their thoughts—you kind of got to know the individual a little bit reading—it was very compelling.”

Geographical Halifax was the closest large maritime port to the location of the Titanic.

“Consider 100 years ago the Coast Guard was non-existent to fly out where the Titanic sank and rescue people,” he said. “The community is a busy maritime port —they really take great care in preserving Titanic history.”