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Lost in the Black Tar
When you look at pictures of the ocean, the water is painted with blues and greens and splashed with life. However, the ocean that I am looking at is dull, dark, and lifeless.
March 17, 1912
My younger brother, James, and I were waiting for my mum and older sister to come home from the market. My dad is working till tomorrow at the mine, so I am in charge of the house till my mum got back. As the minutes turned to hours, I started to get nervous. They were suppose to be back by sunset, and it was now dark as a piece of coal. I put James to bed and sat at the table, waiting for them to come home. After a while, my eyes got really heavy and I started to go to sleep. All of the sudden, my mother breaks open the door screaming with excitement. Anna follows behind her with pieces of paper in her hand. Both of them were dancing around in a circle. A few minutes past before them calmed down enough to tell me what was going on.
My mum bent down and tucked a strand of hair behind my ears. “Lillian, sweetie, have you heard your father and I talk about that big boat we wanted to go on?”
“Yes Mummy, what about it? Have they left the shore?” I asked.
“Oh no darling, it is still at the harbour. What I wanted to tell you is, your father and I have saved up enough pounds to buy a boarding pass for the whole family to go on the big boat!,” said my mum with a smile on her face.
I am only eleven years old, but I am old enough to know that mum and dad really wanted to go on this boat. My best friend, Jane, told me the ship is the size of 10 of my houses put together! She lies a lot so I don’t think that is true, but I am still excited to go on the boat out into the ocean. From the books and stories I have heard, it sounds like the ocean has a lot of dolphins jumping everywhere and the water is so clear, someone can see the bottom!
April 10, 1912
“Welcome aboard the Unsinkable Ship, we are so glad to have you. Sit back and enjoy the peacefulness of the North Atlantic Ocean!,” shouted one of the crew members. My friend was wrong about the size of the ship. It was much, much larger than 10 of my houses. It is a foggy day, and the ship is so long that I can’t even see the other end. We walked up a very large ramp. My little leather suitcase followed my feet. Mum and Father were dressed in their best dress, and my Ana wore her new red lipstick. A few weeks before our trip, Mum and Father decided to leave James with my Auntie Coralline because it was cheaper and easier. I am not worried about him because my Auntie Coraline is really good with children and James loves spending time with her.
A crew member who introduced himself as “Thomas,” led us down to our room on Deck D. When he stopped in front of a door, I was excited to see that it was room 11, my age! I started to get really excited for this trip. I ran into the room shouting and I plopped onto the rock solid bunk bed. Looking around the room, I noticed the plain colored walls and small dresser.
My father looked around and said, “Now, I know it isn’t much, but it’s all we could afford. Don’t you worry though, we will have a splendid time!” He picked me up and set me back on the floor, and spins me around singing,
Cute as a pea.
Laughing with me.
Oh my lil’Lillian,
Sweet as honey dew,
Listen when I say,
I love you!”
After a few minutes, I heard the dinner bell ring. Mum fixed her lipstick in the mirror, and dad put on his coat. I followed my sister down the hall to the dining room. We were almost to the room when she looked down at me and gasped.
“Lillian, you are a mess! Your dress is wrinkled and your hair is a mess. Where is your bow?” she asked.
“I am sorry Anna, I didn’t have time and I lost my bow on the deck.” She looks at me with disapproval, and then tries to pat my curls down.
Anna shrugs and says, “It is okay, but try to look nice. We are on a fancy boat and we want to look our best. Okay?”
“Yes sister.” I smiled. “I will do my best.”
The room where we ate was very large and crowded with people. I could barely hear myself think due to all the small talk. The chief chef came out of the kitchen and announced that the ship has left the harbour. It wasn’t more than half an hour later before the waiters came out with our food. Hot roast beef served with a thick brown gravy placed in front of me. In the center of the table sat a bowl of cabin biscuits and stick of soft butter. I had never smelled anything more delightful than this meal… so I thought. When my belly was stuffed and my plate was clean, I saw the waiters come back with another dish. When they came closer, I saw that it was plum pudding, my favorite! Mum only makes plum pudding on my birthday, so this was a dream come true. My family and I have only been on the ship for a few hours, and I am already having the time of my life.
After supper, Mum brought Anna and I back to the room to get ready for bed while Father went to the smoke room. I put on my pink night gown that Mum had made me for the trip and brushed my curls. I jumped onto my bed, and told everyone goodnight.
April 13, 1912
Three days has passed already, and I feel like I just got here. On this large ship, there is so much to do. For the past nights, all the second class passengers have gotten together and had fellowship in our dining hall area. There is a wealthy family from Ireland on-board who has taught us all a new game that is called, “rings.” I have grown to know the youngest daughter of the Irish family quite well. Her name is Johanna, but we all call her Josie.
During our dinner hour, Josie came up to my table and asked me, “I found something you will really like. Let me show you!”
“What is it? If it is a spider again, I am not going!” I whined.
Josie giggled and replied loudly, “No, no, silly! Come along and follow me.” I stood up to follow her and turned around to tell my Father that I was going to go play with Josie. He nodded and I galloped after her like a horse that got loose! She was running through the halls while holding up her lavender colored dress. She would run up the stairs and her red curls would bounce up and down in unison.
“Are we almost there yet? I am starting to sweat.” Josie just smiled at me and continued to prance to the unknown destination. We hiked up a few steps, and when I got to the top, I felt a cold breeze hit my face. The air took my breath away at first, and when it came back, I realized where we were.
“Taadahh! Isn’t it beautiful?” Josie acquired while clapping her hands. We were on the look-out deck where we could see the water crashing up against the sides of the ships. I suddenly felt very small in an ocean that is so large. The water was much different that I imagined it. It wasn’t clear and fluent. It almost looked like thick, black tar that was laced with white caps. I didn’t see any whales or dolphins. In fact, I didn’t see any evidence of life other than the ship. Josie and I stared at the ocean for a long time before a crew member yelled at us to get back to our deck.
We got back to the dining hall and everyone was still talking, dancing, and playing games with each other. I found Mum talking to another woman from our class. She saw me and asked, “Lillian Julie Gordon, why are your cheeks so red and your eyes running? Did you go up onto the lookout deck without supervision?”
“Yes Mum, I am sorry. Josie wanted to show me it, so I followed her. I promise I won’t do it again,” I cried.
She pointed her finger at me, “You are correct, you will not be doing that again because you are grounded for the night! Go to our room, and you are to go straight to bed young missy! We will talk more in the morning.”
April 14, 1912
I woke up to the dinner bell ringing. Anna was already dressed and had her hair done-up. Mum was still making the bed while Father was putting on his freshly polished shoes. Today was my fourth day being on the ship, and they say it is suppose to be the best! I get ready and head down to the dining room where breakfast would be served.
While I was stuffing my face with delicious fruits of all kinds, a crew member came out and announced, “It is my pleasure to announce that we have provided with you with a band for a dance tonight at 8:30 p.m.! Bring your dancing shoes ladies and gentleman, because this will be a night to remember.”
All the girls squealed in the room and the men clapped their hands. This will be my very first dance! Mum looks at Anna and I, “Girls, I was going to wait till we got to New York to give you girls your present, but I am going to give it to you now since we are having a dance tonight.”
“What is mum? Oooo please tell us!,” I screeched.
She grins and shakes her head, “Follow me back to the cabin and I will let you open them.
Mum stands up out of her chair and starts walking towards the hall. Anna and I follow her. Prancing down the hall, Mum turns around and tells us to keep it down. I start thinking about what the gift might be. Is it a new shiny pair of shoes or a big, pink bow?
We walk into our cabin together, and Mum walks toward her luggage bag. Bending down and rummaging through the bag, she comes up with two boxes with a single string tied around them. She hands the smaller box to Anna, and the larger one to me. Anna gently untied the string, while I started to rip off the outlayer like a ravenous savage. Anna pulled out a gorgeous pair of green earrings that matched her eyes. They were the kind of earrings that dangled right at the level of the cheekbones. Immediately jealous, I opened my box. Lifting the top off, I saw pearly, white lace. As I lifted it out of the bottom, I realized it was a beautiful dress.
I gasped with awe, “Mum! This is beautiful!”
“I am glad you like it sweetie. I can’t wait to see you two girls wear them at the dance!,” she replied.
Anna grabbed her dress and new, green earrings, and set them out on the bunk. Mum started doing my hair. The brush flowed through my thick curls like a leaf being carried down a river. She slipped a satin bow around a section of hair, and tied it into a perfect bow. I carefully stepped into the white lace dress gifted by my mother. When I walked over to the mirror, I finally saw myself as a beautiful woman rather than a cute child. My curly locks dangled around my face. The white dress made my skin look radiant and pure. For once I felt like my life was fulfilled and nothing could get in my way.
April 14, 1912
The smell of cigars filled the room. The sound of chatter muffled the music coming from the band. Couples were spinning around, while the children chased each other around the room. I followed Anna around the room as she was courted by young bachelors. After being at the dance for an hour, a young boy asked me to dance. This night was the best night of my entire life. Seconds turned into minutes, and minutes turned into hours. Before I knew it, the clock showed 2:00 a.m.. The dance was winding down, and my friend Josie found me.
She whispered in my ear, “Lillian, let's go on deck and see the water at night! We can come straight back here after.”
“I can’t! I got in trouble last time I went on deck.” I replied
Josie whined, “We will make it quick, I promise! Pleaseeeeee?”
I rolled my eyes and said, “Fine, but let’s hurry!” Once again we took off running down the hall and up the stairs. Josie and I got up to the deck and peered over the railing at the deep water. All of the sudden, I felt a jolt and went tumbling onto the floor. Josie screamed and rolled over me. The shutter stopped and I looked around.
“Josie, are you okay?” I hollered.
I heard her voice, “I am okay, are you?” I got up and went over to her next to the railing.
Josie looked at me with wide, scared eyes, “What was that? Did the ship hit something?”
“I am not sure. Let’s go back to our floor so my parents don’t get mad at me.” I replied. I smoothed out my dress and headed toward the stairs. As Josie and I were taking our first step down, a swarm of screaming people came running up. We were pushed back up the stairs, onto the deck. Confused and scared, I started yelling and looking for my mum and dad.
Even though there were a ton of people on deck that knew what happened, no one would tell me what was going on. I decided to push my way down the stairs to find my family. Arms kept hitting me in the face, and my toes were getting stepped on the whole way down. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear my own voice. When I got to the end of the hallway, I shoved my way to my families room. The door slammed behind me, and I stumbled into the room. No one was there, but everything was the way it was a few hours ago. I decided to go look for them in the dining hall. I attempted pushing the door open, but the packed hallway kept the door blocked. Pushing the door with all my might and yelling at the top of my lungs, I eventually got very tired. I gave up, and fell to the ground, sobbing. There were multiple answers running through my mind about what happend; fire, there was a famous person on deck, or a murderer was on the loose.
As time went on, the hallway never quieted. I leaned up against the door, and waited. All of the sudden, I saw a little bit of water come under the door. Thinking in my head, someone must have spilled some water as they were running to the deck. However, I was wrong because water kept coming, and coming. I jumped up from the ground because my dress was getting wet. In a matter of seconds, I realized what was going on; ship wreck. I was locked in a room while the ship is sinking. The worst part about it all is my family was out there, and I am all alone. I am too young to die, especially like this.
Given my situation, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I prayed.
I got down on my hands and knees on my bed, and plead, “Dear Lord, I don’t know what to do right now, and I am probably going to be visiting you soon, but please make my death quick and painless. Lord, help my family find safety. Tell them how much I love them, and if it is your will, save my life.”
I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes. In the back of my mind, I knew the water was a foot deep in the bunk, but I imagined it was just a regular night's sleep. Just when I was about to fall into a deep sleep, I heard a grand noise. Looking up, I saw that the water had pushed open the door. I jumped out of my bed and waded through the water, up the stairs.
This water was not your normal water. It was a dark color and icy to the touch. The water was so cold, it took one’s breath away in an instance. I got to the deck, shaking because I was so cold and scared. I pushed my way through the chaotic crowd, till I saw the source of discussion. There were men throwing children and women onto lifeboats. I was relieved when I saw a familiar face, Thomas.
Thomas yelled to the crowd, “Is that all the women and children?” He scanned the crowd and his eyes met mine.
“You! Come here quickly!” He shouted. I ran over to him, and he put me in the boat.
I cried, “Wait! I don’t know where my family is. I can’t leave them here.”
“They would want you safe. Most likely, they are already on a lifeboat.” He replied. I tried to let what he said sink in, but all I could think about is the fact that I may never see my family again. I heard more yelling, and then our boat started being lowered to the ocean. My eyes were closed shut in order to block out what was happening. There was a mother and a young infant crying next to me. Our boat drifted away from the, “unsinkable ship,” and I finally could read the name of the boat; “Titanic.” The air was so frigid that I started to fall asleep. Before I dozed off, I muttered, “Goodbye Pa. Goodbye Mum. Goodbye Anna. I will see you again.”
April 14th was the last time I saw my family other than my younger brother. It has been twenty years now, and every year at this time, I cut off a piece of my white lace dress, and go to the ocean shore. It is there that I remember my loved ones, and send out a piece of the white lace out into the ocean. My hope is that they passed in peace, along with the other passengers on the Titanic. Till this day, I refuse to go out onto the ocean for fear that my life will be taken by the sea.