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10 'Titanic' Survivors Describe What The Sinking Was Actually Like

Updated August 11, 2020 67.1k votes 13.5k voters 637.1k views10 items

List RulesVote up the most enlightening firsthand accounts from survivors

Over 100 years after the RMS Titanic met its demise on April 15, 1912, the story of the tragic wreck through Titanic survivor accounts continues to haunt and mesmerize people worldwide. Out of over 2,200 passengers, approximately only 700 people survived to share their stories. Many Titanic survivor stories have been lost to the passage of time. Some survivors were hesitant to share the harrowing details of this experience, never speaking publicly about the sinking of the Titanic. Others went on to share their Titanic sinking stories and rescue stories through interviews, memoirs, and speaking engagements. 

These firsthand accounts talk about the chaos, the anxiety, the horror, the items that were lost, and the strange beauty of one of the most luxurious ocean liners that had ever been seen slowly sinking into the water. In the wreck and its aftermath, families were torn apart, great loves were lost, and a tremendous amount of life was sacrificed. These accounts bring us back to that terrible and fateful night, all those years ago.

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  • 5

    A Survivor Remembers The Men Who Were Desperate To Get On The Lifeboats

    Photo: New York Herald / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Annie McGowan, 15 at the time, was traveling with her aunt from Ireland to New York. She gave her first interview of the tragedy at age 86: "Women wouldn't leave their husbands. They were screaming, and I could hear gunshots in the background. Apparently, some of the men had tried to dress like women in order to be rescued, and they were shot."

    She recalls men begging to get in her own lifeboat. They said: "Let me in or I'll tip the whole lifeboat. Of course, we had to let him in."

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  • 6

    One Woman Remembers The Terrified Look On The Men's Faces – And Their Heroism

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Helen Churchill Candee was a feminist and single woman traveling on the Titanic alone. At age 53, she was "so attractive that at least a half dozen men in first class, including Colonel Archibald Gracie, seemed inclined to 'protect' her." She later wrote with respect about the workers who dutifully gave their lives:

    A group of stokers [steam engine workers] fleeing the water-filled decks below appeared. Each face reflected the sight he had seen, the sight of coming death. Each knew what the passengers did not know... All of a sudden, the junior officer who led them gave a short, "Halt!" The men did as they were told, turned around and went back down below – to their deaths. I looked with profound admiration at the descending column of men, who could courageously relinquish their life."

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  • 7

    Ruth Becker Recalls The Strange Beauty Of The Ship That Night

    Video: YouTube

    Ruth Becker was 12 years old when she rode on the Titanic in second class with her family. Many years later, she described the strange, but terrible beauty of the ship as it slipped beneath the water:

    The night was dark, no moon. It was a very dark, black night, and that boat was just beautiful. All the lights in the boat were on. It was just a beautiful sight. It was going down quietly and the lights were going under the water as it went down. I remember that very plainly as it was a beautiful sight and a terrible sight as we could see the boat was going down.

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  • 8

    Charlotte Collyer Describes The Panicked Search For Loved Ones

    Photo: Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Passengers who were rescued by the Carpathia arrived in New York City a few days later and began their anxious search for loved ones. Charlotte Collyer, a second class passenger who was 31 years old, described the search for her husband:

    There was scarcely anyone who had not been separated from husband, child or friend. Was the last one among the handful saved? I had a husband to search for, a husband whom in the greatness of my faith, I had believed would be found in one of the boats. He was not there.

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