Columbia Woman Tells Her Grandma's Titanic Story

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COLUMBIA - This week the world remembers the Titanic tragedy that struck exactly 100 years ago. For Columbia woman Cynthia Harting, she's remembering her grandma Ruth Blanchard who survived the Titanic shipwreck. 

Harting shared with KOMU pictures, books and a cassette tape recording of Ruth telling her story.  

"This is the story of my experience of the Titanic disaster," Ruth said starting off the recording.

Harting said she hadn't listened to her grandma's tape recording in decades.

"I can't believe I'm hearing her voice," Harting said. "It's been 22 years since I've heard her voice. It's great to hear her again." 

On the tape, Ruth recalls the memory of her time on the ship that couldn't sink. 

"Mother and I were awakened by a dead silence. The engines had stopped... Mother asked, 'What is the trouble?' He said, 'Put your lifebelts on immediately and go up to the boat have time for nothing. The ship has struck an iceberg," she said.

Of the more than 2,000 passengers who set sail on the Titanic in April 1912, Harting's grandma Ruth was one of 710 who survived the tragedy.  Harting said she first learned about her grandma's history with the Titanic when she was 10 and that Ruth freely talked about it. 

"When I first found out about it I was very shocked," Harting said.

Ruth grew up in India where her parents served as missionaries.  When her younger brother Richard got sick, doctors advised Ruth's parents to get him back to America for treatment. So, Ruth, her mom and her two siblings - Richard, 2, and Marion,4 - booked tickets from South Hampton England to New York City aboard the RMS Titanic. 

"My grandmother was 12," Harting said. "She could remember everything and yet she was still alive when they rediscovered the Titanic." 

Ruth's father stayed back in India to finish some business before joining his family back in the states, a decision that according to Ruth's recount, saved his life. 

"...the time when so many of the women who had been put into lifeboats by their husbands, and told they would meet each other later, realized that they would never see each other again," Ruth said. 

In Ruth's recording she describes the Titanic, remembering it as a shiny, new boat with silver everywhere.  And she recalls the disastrous vessel she escaped.  She also  includes what she describes as the most terrifying sound she's ever heard. 

"...the cries of hundreds of people struggling in the ice cold water, crying for help with a cry that we knew could not be answered," Ruth said.  

Ruth heard those cries from the lifeboat she escaped the Titanic on.  She also notes how men had to cut the ropes that lowered the lifeboat because the pulleys got caught and another lifeboat was quickly coming down on top of them. Her mother and siblings got off of the Titanic, but on a different boat. Despite everything that happened on the Titanic, Ruth said on her recording that she never felt scared. 

"From the time we knew the Titanic had struck the iceberg until the Carpathia came to rescue us, I was not afraid. Every minute was exciting to me."

Ruth and her family members survived the Titanic disaster, one of the largest families to all come out alive.  She died in 1990 at the age of 90 and her ashes were scattered over the site of the shipwreck in the Atlantic ocean. 

"She was just a really great woman," Harting said.