A Night to Remember

March 10, 2008
By Ashley-Rose Dickey, Alexandria, VA

“Christi! Wake up!” My mother was shaking me awake so I opened my eyes. “Come on honey,” my mother said, “we have to go! The boat leaves in just a few hours.” At that, I leaped out of bed and pulled on my blue corduroy dress and black button-up boots I had laid out last night. This was the day! The day that I, Christi Hopkins, was leaving England and going on a great journey to America! I ran a comb through my curly, brown hair and glanced in a mirror, beaming. I saw myself, a girl with green eyes and dimples, smiling back at me. I grabbed my camera, my most prized possession, and hurried downstairs with my mother. My brother and father were waiting with our luggage. “Slowpoke,” my brother Nathan muttered as I picked up my things and hurried out the door. We ran out to the waiting carriage and were off!

On the way to the ship, I began to think about why we were taking such a big trip. We have been preparing for this journey to America since I was ten. Now I am 14 and we have sold everything we own except for some clothes and family heirlooms we just couldn’t sell. When we heard that there was a boat sailing for America just when we were planning to leave, my parents booked us first class tickets. They said they wanted us to have the best time of our lives or something like that. I was just looking forward to getting to take some great pictures of our journey. I want to be a photographer when I grow up. Anyway, we boarded our ship on April 10, 1912. The boat was to land in New York a week later, but I figured it would seem like a year!

When we arrived at the ship, my eyes practically popped out of my head. The ship was enormous! I craned my neck to look at the top of it. It was amazing. I kept my eyes glued to the outside of the ship until we got inside. Then I couldn’t help my eyes darting everywhere. There was so much to look at! There was a magnificent chandelier right in the hallway before a huge staircase. Everything looked so expensive I was afraid to touch it, lest I break it. After my parents had checked us in, we moseyed down the multiple corridors until we got to our room. It was marvelous. There was a small sitting room that led off into two rooms, one with beds for my brother and I and the other with a large canopy bed for my parents. There was also a bathroom leading off of the sitting room. I ran into my room with my brother and stared at the dark blue wallpaper. There was a small end table by each of the beds and two chairs at a small table at the other end of the room. There was a wash basin on a table where we could wash our hand and faces in the morning. I pulled out my camera and snapped a couple pictures. Then my brother and I locked eyes. We both smiled and I thought This is going to be the best trip ever!

The next morning, I woke up and I didn’t know where I was. Then I remembered. I was on my journey to America! On a big, beautiful ship! I jumped out of bed and hurriedly dressed in a salmon pink dress with my black boots on my feet. I pinned up my hair, put a bow in it, and grabbed my coat, for it was cold. I woke my brother up and we hurried to wake up my parents. About an hour later, we went into the dining hall, where we had eaten the night before. I was still amazed at the size of the dining hall. It seemed to run the whole length of the ship! I looked through the view finder of my camera. I saw a large party at a table laughing, a live quartet playing wonderful music, and a waiter serving a couple in a corner more wine. I pressed down the button on the camera right before I sat down. We leisurely ate our breakfast and afterwards, my parents said we could explore the ship by ourselves! We hurried out and began to go over the whole ship. We found a library, a gym and a few other kids our age to play with. This ship was so prestigious that it even had a swimming pool on board. I knew the next few days would be pure bliss.

The week passed by quickly. We played, ate, swam, and explored the ship. I took practically a million pictures. Every night I went to bed thinking This was the best day of my life and everyday was better than the day before it. All too soon, it was Sunday. We only had one more day left on the wonderful ship. That morning, Mother and Father took us to a church service that was led by the ship’s captain. After church, we hurriedly ate lunch and ran around, doing everything we could before the day was over. My parents went to another church service that night. Though they did not take us, they insisted that Nathan and I stay in the cabin. We played for a while but eventually got tired and went to bed. A little later, we were awakened by a knock on the door. Thinking it was my parents, I told my brother to go get it. He got up and opened the door. A minute later, I heard the door close and my father’s voice call my name. I got up and went out to the sitting room. Everyone was in their nightgowns. “That was the steward,” Father said, “He wants us to put on our clothes and life jackets and go up to the main deck.”
“But why?” I asked.
“He didn’t say. You just need to do it. And make sure you don’t dawdle.” I went into my room and threw on my warmest clothes. Why in the world would they want us to go outside at-a quick look at my clock- almost 12 at night? I thought. This was weird. I grabbed my life jacket and camera and ran outside to the corridor with everyone else.

When we got upstairs, we saw many people on the deck, most of them in their nightgowns. They were murmuring to each other, trying to figure out what was happening. I looked around and after a few minutes, got bored. Then I remembered my camera and began to snap pictures of the crowd, and of my family. I saw some crewmen come up on deck and uncover a life boat. I continued to watch as the crew men began to call for some women and children to come forward. “They can’t expect us to get in there!” I said to my mother. “It’s pitch black out there!”
“I don’t know, sweetie.” she said. “We should just do what they say.” We watched and waited as the life boat was filled up a little bit and then lowered. More crewmen began to uncover boats and call for women and children to come forward. Suddenly, I started to slip a little. I grabbed a deck chair and noticed that the deck was tilting. My father came up behind me. “Grab my hand, Christi. We must get you, your mother, and brother into a life boat.”
“But why?” I asked.
He sighed and looked at me. “I think you can handle it. The news just came from the captain himself. The boat has hit an iceberg and is sinking.”
I felt all the blood drain out of my face. “Sinking? But how?” Even though I knew the answer.
“We cannot discuss that right now. Let’s get you on a boat.” That’s when I looked around and saw more and more people going towards the life boats. There were only a few left. I allowed him to lead me to a life boat. My mother and brother were there. Then Father helped us into the life boat and started to back away. “No!” I yelled, beginning to cry. “Where are you going?”
“I must let the other women and children get on before me.” He replied, “Don’t worry! I’ll get on another life boat. Love you!” Now I was sobbing and my mother started too. Nathan was having a hard time not crying but he kept it in, trying to be the brave one of the family. People piled on, a couple crew men jumped in and lowered the boat.

We hit the water with a splash. I sat down on a seat next to my mother with Nathan on the other side, near the water. I heard “Row! Row for your lives, before we get sucked under!” It was a crewman telling us to get out of the way of the sinking boat. Nathan grabbed an oar and began to row. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the sight. “My goodness,” I heard the woman next to me say. “She really is going down.” I watched as people were jumping off the boat and swimming towards us and the other lifeboats. My thoughts were running wildly through my head: If the boat was sinking, that meant people were getting on life boats to save themselves, but why aren’t they letting down the other lifeboats? When the thought hit me, it was like a splash of the cold water around us. There were no other lifeboats. All the people on the boat would drown. Everyone who wasn’t on a lifeboat would die. I stifled a scream as I realized that meant my father. My hands began to hurt and I saw that I was gripping my camera so hard that my knuckles were white. I shakily raised the camera to my eye. I snapped a picture of the boat and then zoomed in on the boat’s name. The Titanic was written in big white letters. After I took the pictures, I put the camera down and tried to comfort my mother. We rowed away quickly towards some lights in the distance. I turned around for a moment and watched as the Titanic split between two of its funnels and disappeared beneath the ocean.

The screams. Oh, the screams were the most horrible thing I had ever heard. There were cries of people calling out for mercy and salvation, praying for loved ones, and the ever present “Help!” I turned away, unable to bear the sight. I began to cry all over again and, shaking with the violent intensity of my sobs, buried my face in my coat. I don’t know what was worse, the cries themselves or the way they faded away like the night sky. When I looked up again, there was nothing left. Just us and a few other lifeboats. We were all alone.

It was just past 4 a.m., according to a crewman’s pocket watch, when we saw our savior. It was a ship called the Carpathia. She had heard the distress calls the Titanic had sent out just a couple hours before it sank. Slowly, the ship went around picking up life boats. We waited until she made her way to us, careful of the large icebergs in the water, and we clambered aboard. Once every life boat was on board, the Carpathia went to the wreck sight to see if there were anymore survivors. I looked thought the water searchingly for any living thing, but there was nothing, not even a toothpick, to show that the Titanic had sunk. We left the site and continued full steam ahead to New York. Mother, Nathan and I frantically searched the whole ship for Father. After going over the whole ship from top to bottom several times over, we finally gave into the horrible truth. Father had perished in the sinking and we would never see him again.

I felt absolutely nothing. I felt like it was all a dream and I would wake up in England on the day we were supposed to sail. I felt like there was a giant void where my heart should have been. I did not sleep or eat the rest of the time on the boat. I just sat and tried not to think about the ship, about Father, but there was nothing else to think about. Just the sinking and about all the people who had died. One person in particular. The man who had helped my mother raise me and laughed with me and loved me. The man who was always there when I had something wonderful or terrible to tell him. The man I called father and who I never knew how much I loved until he was gone. Why is it that we don’t realize how much you love and care about someone until it is too late? I vowed that I would love people more and let them know how much I loved them while they were still here.

Before we docked in New York, the chaplain onboard gave a thanksgiving ceremony for those of us who had survived and funeral service for the other 1500 who had not. 1500. That is a big number. I never thought I had ever seen that many people in one place. Now I had and I had heard them die. I tried not to think about all the families that had been torn apart. All the families that had gapping holes where there should have been someone laughing or crying with them. Our family, which would never be the same again.

When the ship docked, we were some of the first people off. Nathan, Mother and I pushed through the crowds of people looking for loved ones and reporters, trying to get the news. We went to the train station and traveled to our new home in Massachusetts. I thought this trip would be the best time of my life and I would remember it for the rest of my life. I was right that I would remember it for the rest of my life but not why I would. It would not be because it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but because it was one of the worst. My father and over 1500 other people died. I would remember it because it was such a terrible tragedy. I would remember it because I learned that life is short and you must live it to its fullest, because you never know what could happen to you.

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