I have learned that third class passengers waited years to immigrate because the conditions for steerage were so bad. Many steerage passengers died before they got to port. Since it was a life threatening decision to immigrate it sometimes took years of deliberation. (thank you Sandie: )
The opportunities were better, but they might die before they got off the ship. Was it worth the risk?
Neal and Eileen thought it an ideal opportunity to cross the ocean, Titanic steerage was luxurious! Neal had the security of position in management as soon as he arived in America with his new bride.
Eileen started shopping! She bought a sailor blouse with a blue anchor on it, a blue skirt and and petticoat. Even her corset was blue. Her slip was monogramed with her new married name, so she was a person who cared about detail. It must have been part of her trousseau.
She packed everything carefully in their trunk. Before leaving she had bought a keeper. She slipped in on next to her wedding ring. A keeper was something like a ring guard. It secured to the wedding ring with small hooks so that the main ring (her wedding ring) would not slip off the finger. Another indication that she was a "detail" person and that her wedding ring was very important to her.
She had her brown velvet coat (that sounds so tasteful!) and her purse, all that was left was to catch the train to South Hampton. Their last night in Salisbury must have filled her with mixed emotions. Excitement and sadness. She was leaving her family and might never see her mother again. She would however, meet with friends she knew who would board the Titanic at Queenstown.
The train ride with her husband and other third and second class passengers going to South Hampton,was the begining of her dream coming true!
At the dock,she and Neal walked the legnth of the huge Titanic with awe and wonder. They got on the ship and began looking for their cabin. It was small but so much better than the usual third class. They may have had seperate rooms. After getting settled, they found their way to the steerage deck and stood watching the crowds from the shore,who were waving the Tittanic goodbye.
When they arrived at Queenstown, their countrymen filled the steerage cabins, bringing laughter and familiar smiles. She and Neal had dinner with friendly passengers all sharing the same dream. America!. After dinner and going up on deck to enjoy the cool night air and the starlit sky, she took down her hair and slid into the cool sheets of her cozy bed. The sea was so calm and smoothe and she was going to America, safely married to the man she loved.
Their days were perfect! Talking with friends in the general rooms, writing letters home, sitting on the deck watching the sun sink into the massive expanse of ocean.. Young and in love on the most wonderful ship ever made, taking her to their new life.
Attending the Sunday service was breath taking! They passed the grand staircase and went into worship service with some of the wealthiest people in the world! She had never seen such opulence before. She thought she was dreaming!
That evening she and Neal danced for hours at the party in the steerage general room. They were still dancing when the ship hit the iceberg. Ice tumbled onto the steerage deck and some of the men grew concerned. Neal went to see if there was a problem, when he returned, he quietly told her that they had hit ice.
It was a while befor panic broke out. Neal walked her back to the cabin and told her to prepare to leave the ship. Fear gripped her but Neal's strong, confident manner helped her to prepare. A million things raced through her mind. She put on her coat and grabbed her purse. She had her keys, pen, cards, tickets and cosmetics. She checked it again, hurriedly as she wrapped the drawstrings around her wrist. "Put this on now" he said as he helped her pull the bulky life belt over her heavy coat.
She locked the cabin door and took Neal's arm as they walked to the deck. All around her was confusion. Crying children, men and women rushing thru the maze of corridors that was third class. They went to one gate, it was locked, they went to another gate, it was locked too. The crowded corriders grew louder with shrieks of fear.
Neal held her arm tightly as she was almost wrenched from him in the crowd. Finally, they found a small knot of irishmen that they knew. As they stood together a voice called for women and children to board a life boat. Neal pushed Eileen toward the voice but she clung to him. Frantically women pushed past her and begged her to join them. "You go, I can't leave Neal" she said shaking with fear. Her small face was white against her dark hair as she trembled. "Please Eileen, come with us" the women frantically gasped. Terror seized her, she could'nt move. The press of bodies in the cramped space pushed through to the deck leaving Eileen with Neal. They clung together tightly. It was hard for her to stand, the floor beneath her was tilting.
It seemed like an endless struggle, squeezing through over crowded corridors filled with anguished cries of panic,as they hopelessly looked for safety. They held each other as they heard the awful sound of the ship breaking in half. Together, they were plunged into the icy depth of endless black water. Eileen was found bobbing on the waves among the debris, her purse tightly wrapped around her wrist. Neal was never found.
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