Walking In the Midst of Titanic's LegacyIn July 2005, my sister Connie and I took a trip to Nova Scotia. Halifax, Nova Scotia is the final destination of over 300 of Titanic's victims-and half of those are buried in three different cemeteries there. The Fairview Lawn being where most are buried, the Jewish victims buried at the very well maintained Baron de Hirsch and the Catholic victims in the Mount Olivet. All these cemeteries have a special section dedicated to Titanic's victims.
My very first time at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery was a very emotional time for me. I felt a tear well up as I got off the bus, saw the TITANIC sign and started to walk up the slight hill to the section of graves I had come over 3000 miles to see. Here were some of the people, whose lives I had been studying and I felt like I really knew them. It made the Titanic real life for me-not just a story or movie. Here were real people, some just ordinary, like myself, who happened to be thrust into history whether they wanted to be or not. I had brought along a notebook of every known Titanic person buried in these cemeteries so I could stop at each grave and know who was resting there. At each grave headstone I paid my respects and then laid my hand on the cool stone, wanting to make some kind of connection with the person buried there, wanting them to know somehow, that they were not forgotten.
The first grave I visited was that of Luigi Gatti-the manager of the Titanic's A La Carte Restaurant. He was 37 years old. I know I would've liked this man-due to the fact-in the only picture I have of him, which isn't that clear, he's holding a little dog on his lap. Maybe it was a naughty little terrier, just like my own furry companion, Sophie.
It was emotional to see the famous grave of the Unknown Child. This grave of an unidentified child is there to represent all the little children who perished with the Titanic. There were all kinds of little toys, pennies, various coins, stuffed animals, and flowers around it.
Then I visited the grave of J. Dawson. It too had flowers on it. People mistakenly think this is the grave of the Titanic movie hero, Jack Dawson. Be sure and check out the page of my favorite passengers to find out who the real J. Dawson was. It was also neat to think here I was, walking in the same steps as "Molly" Brown-who came to the cemetery in 1914 to lay wreaths she had made, on each headstone.
While we were there a group of school kids came. They were on a special school project-each assigned a numbered grave and person to find. Since I had my Titanic notebook with me naturally I joined in to help! I just know my sister Connie had to have rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath that OH NO! we'd be there all day!! But for me it was sheer Titanic bliss! All those Titanic graves and a whole group of eager-to-learn school kids!! Now that's a match made in heaven for me!!
The Baron De Hirsch Cemetery was actually just up the hillside from the Fairview Lawn. This Jewish Titanic section was very well maintained-neat and tidy. The grave that caught my eye right off was that of Michel Navratil, who was on the Titanic under the name of Mr. Hoffman, and not Jewish at all. He had kidnapped his two young boys from their mother in France during divorce proceedings and was taking them to America-hoping she would follow and reunite with them there. As it turned out, however, Michel perished with the Titanic after making sure his two little boys got put into a lifeboat. The two boys were called "The Titanic Orphans" when they got to America as no one knew who they were. They did eventually reunite with their mother who found them through a picture and story in a newspaper. Michel's oldest son came to visit his father's grave in his older years and was contacted about moving his father out of the Jewish cemetery and into the Catholic cemetery. He obviously declined the offer stating his father had been there so long he was fine where he was at.
Mount Olivet Cemetery wasn't nearly as kept up as the others were. I was privileged to visit the grave of Margaret Rice, who was identified after some research, by a medicine bottle found in her pocket when they recovered her body floating in the sea. Margaret and her four sons were traveling to Spokane, Washington after the 1910 death of her husband. Sadly, the whole family perished.
I got to go back to the cemetery a couple more times while we were in Halifax-alone however. I sat on a bench near the Titanic graves, listening to the birds and the quiet breeze on a warm summer day. It was a quiet time to be by myself- time to meditate and contemplate. It was hard to leave them-knowing in reality I may never get to visit again, or at the least it could be years before I could come back. But then another whole busload of tourists came walking up the gentle hill, and I somehow felt comforted, knowing that people were not forgetting them and are still visiting their graves everyday.