A ‘Titanic’ Moment
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
When I peeked out of the hotel window at 6 a.m., the street below was deserted. The grim outline of the Citadel on the hill directly opposite, brooded in the silvery dawn. Sipping a steaming cup of tea, I reviewed the day ahead in my mind. A day trip in Halifax!
Our guide arrived in his van at 9 a.m. We shook hands and started down the main street in Halifax. Past the Jubilee Gardens and off on to the highway leading out of town. Our first stop was the Fairview Lawn Cemetery.
Richard, our guide parked under the giant trees and explained as we walked amid rows of neat pines, “This is one of the most famous cemeteries in Halifax. It’s where the some of the Titanic dead are buried.”
A sharp intake of breath and we hurried along. Richard stopped at a peculiarly shaped set of graves.
“Notice anything strange?”
We shook our heads in puzzlement until my youngest pointed out, “It’s shaped like a boat’s hull!”
“Yes, that’s a tribute to the people on the Titanic who didn’t make it. Look, here’s someone you should have heard of.”
We stared perplexed until I read out in a quavering voice, “Jack Dawson!”
My daughters screamed. Richard laughed indulgently.
“Yes, this is probably where Cameron got the name for Leonardo’s character in the movie. When the movie [Titanic‘] was first released, I personally wiped buckets of tears and led away millions of young girls who refused to believe that the Jack Dawson buried here wasn’t somehow reincarnated in Hollywood,” he said reminiscently.
We saw the grave of the millionaire Astor. Then came Alma Paulsson’s final resting place. She was a mother who didn’t survive. We moved to a smaller graveside. Richard stood for a moment in silence. We waited, hearing the murmur of the wind in the trees and the cawing of some recalcitrant rooks.
He took off his cap and said quietly, “This is the grave of the unknown child, a third class passenger. A two-year-old male child who was unidentified until recently. Modern DNA technology, some passionate genealogists and history buffs got together and they managed to locate his family in Finland. In 2002, there was a big ceremony here in Halifax where the little boy’s extended family members came in from Norway and gave him his name. So here lies Eino Viljami Panula, one of the five brothers who were travelling on the Titanic with their mother to join their father in America. There were no marks on his body when they found him.”
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