Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jack Thayer, survivor

I can picture this young man on the sinking ship. He stands there, separated from his parents by the chaos and the crowd, talking to another young man, Milton Long, and watching a star though the davits of the ship to judge how quickly the ship is sinking.

He's dressed in warm tweeds and three vests and an overcoat--probably the same kind of thing he'd wear at his private high school on cold days. He begins to realize that he may not survive this day, and he is saddened that he may never see his parents or friends again.

All around him, people are running, screaming, jumping.  The boat is making horrible groaning and crashing noises as it sinks.

It's dark; dark and icy cold.

Finally, Jack and his companion decide they need to jump off of the boat. Milton sits down on the edge and asks if Jack is coming too.  "I'll join you in a minute," he says.  Milton slides down the side of the boat and disappears.

Jack, a strong swimmer, takes off his overcoat and jumps out, far away from the suction of the ship going down. The icy water washes over him, he's tossed and spun around in the chaotic sea. With a crash, the second funnel falls very close to him, and he's underwater again.

As he reaches out in the water, his hand grabs onto the edge of one of the lifeboats, Collapsible B, which is floating upside down on the water.  Another man pulls him on top of the overturned craft, and they balance precariously.

They face the sinking ship.The stern tilts higher and higher in the water; people cling in groups "like bees," only to fall into the water.  Buffetted by the waves, the stern spins slowly in the water and then slowly, with loud groans and crashes, sinks into the sea.

It's then that the sound begins:  the awful cries of the people in the water--moans, screams, cries for help.  Jack balances on the upturned boat with the other wet and freezing men, and eventually hears the noise diminish, then stop.

Thayer and the other men on the overturned boat--the ones that did not freeze to death that night--were rescued by the Carpathia.  Thayer was reunited with his mother there.

He was 17, the same age as my older son, Robbie.

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