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Family

Daughter of Survivor Recalls 'Horrible' Ordeal

June 19, 1997|CORRINE FLOCKEN

Among those quietly examining the remnants of one of the most famous of all sea tragedies was Hortense Bader-Wood of Bryn Mawr, Pa.

One piece in the Queen Mary exhibit that caught her eye was a reprint of the front page of the April 17, 1912, edition of the New York American newspaper that listed the names of Titanic survivors. Although it is smudged by time, the name H. Blank is still visible.

That, she said, was her father, Henry Blank.

As Bader-Wood tells it, Blank was a 39-year-old jewelry designer from New Jersey who booked first-class passage on the Titanic's maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York after a tour of European gemstone suppliers. The raw materials from his trip, held in a ship's safe, went down with the ship.

Unfortunately, Bader-Wood said, her mother and siblings never saw that survivors' list. It wasn't until the family stood on a chilly New York dock five days after the disaster and saw Blank walk down the gangplank of the Carpathia, the ship that picked up the Titanic's 705 surviving passengers and crew members, that they knew he was alive.

Eighty-five years later, Bader-Wood still recalls that moment clearly.

"She almost fainted," remembered Bader-Wood of her mother. "I can remember her crying. We were all crying."

For whatever reason--maybe a sense of decorum or respect for the Titanic's dead, or a desire to forget that hellish night--Bader-Wood's father, who died 40 years later, kept his Titanic memories largely to himself. But she remembered one story he shared:

"As the ship was sinking and they were loading the lifeboats, it was women and children first," she said.

"After all the lifeboats had left, someone called up to the deck of the ship that they needed a man to row. An acquaintance standing next to [her father] turned and said, 'You have more children, you go.' So Father jumped."

That would have been around 2 a.m., as the ship's orchestra was playing "Nearer My God to Thee" and the last lifeboats had been lowered into the frigid black waters of the North Atlantic.

According to Bader-Wood, who was accompanied by her daughter, Jeanne Bader of Long Beach, and son, Charles Bader of Pittsburgh, Henry Blank fell onto some floating ice and was hauled into the lifeboat by Titanic crew members who were aboard.

"It was a horrible experience," she said as she gazed at the vintage photographs. "Horrible."

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