"And when was the moment that you knew it was all over?" the man sitting across from me, his eyes sympathetic and kind, asked, his pen ready. I knew this question, it was something that everyone seemed to ask. My memory rushed, taking complete precedence, to the first time I'd been asked.
"When did you know that it was all over, miss?" a reporter asked me, shoving his tape recorder in my face as he grilled me for details. I'd only just gotten off the boat moments before, arriving in New York with my mother and father.
"Don't you see she's just a girl!" my father snapped, obviously frustrated and exhausted from all that had happened. He was still recovering, his body thin and pale. While his scars from that night were visible, physical, mine were much more soulful in nature.
"And who are you, sir?" the reporter questioned, obviously offended. "I was just askin' the girl a que'stion, that's all." My mother linked our arms, staring the man down.
"I am the Earl of Manton," my father replied, making himself slightly taller as he said so. Even ill, my father had a presence.
"So?" I could almost feel the tension between my father and the reporter mounting. "You're in America, lad. Being an earl don't mean nothin' 'ere." For a moment, the two men simply looked at each other, waiting for the other to make a move.
Through the crowd, we heard the cry of a woman. "Mr. Grex!" My mother, father, and I began scanning the dozens of faces for the one that owned that voice. Miraculously, the voice made its way to us in the form of Mrs. Widener, Harry's mother.
"Mrs. Widener!" I exclaimed, breaking away from my mother to embrace her. "Harry...?" She shook her head sadly.
"No, my dear. I'm afraid that there's still no news of him." I hung my head. "Don't fret," she insisted. "We need to keep up hope, and prayer. That's what will bring Harry back to us." She then turned to my parents. "Why don't you all come with me. I'm set up in a hotel for the time being, and I wouldn't mind the company." With that, we all set out to the hotel that Mrs. Widener had spoken of.
It felt like a relief to be on solid ground again, and much warmer than it had been on the boat, but I found myself continuously glancing back at it. Could Harry really be gone? Certainly, any moment, he'd step off that boat, a little worse for wear, but still alive. But he didn't, and he wouldn't. Harry was gone.
"When did you know that the ship was going to sink?" the reporter repeated, stating his question more simply as though he thought that I didn't understand. If only I didn't understand, I thought to myself, if only I could make the entire thing seem like nothing more than a dream. "Ms. Grex-"
"I knew that the Titanic was sinking," I began. I said my words slowly and deliberately, wanting to completely and honestly recount what had occurred that night aboard the Titanic. I wanted no detail left unremembered, "when they called for all of the women and children to get on the lifeboats."
"Were you in one of the first boats, miss?" he inquired, still writing my response to the previous question. Of all the memories streaming through my mind of that night, orders of getting into lifeboats seemed irrelevant. To him, however, I imagined that this was most important. In his mind, the wealthy and nobles would be offered salvation first, and they were. I just happened not to be there in time.
"No, I was on one of the last ones they had." He nodded, not looking up from his pad. I looked out the window, the activity of the city outside so opposite from the silence, apart from the reporter's pen, within these walls.
"Did you see the Titanic sink?" I nodded. "What was it like?"
"Like watching the end of the world," I admitted, my eyes glazing over in memory. "For a time, we could see the lights of every cabin on, slowly being consumed by the water. Eventually, the electricity turned off, leaving us entirely in darkness, apart from the little lantern on our lifeboat. Then, we heard their screams. The desperate cries of those still on the boat, praying for anyone to save them. Their voices penetrated the darkness, slowly quieting as the night went on." It was then that the reporter looked up, eyes meeting mine as though to say that he understood. He then looked to his notepad once again.
"From what information I've gathered, Miss Grex, it seems that your entire family survived?" he inquired.
"Yes, we almost lost my father, but, by the grace of God, someone had brought brandy with them; and that revived him."
"So you were fortunate enough not to lose anyone, Miss Grex. Others were not, I'm afraid."
"You are wrong, sir," His eyes met mine once again, inquisitive and invasive. "I lost someone very dear to me."
"Oh?" I nodded. "Would you mind elaborating?"
"I'm sorry, sir. I don't share such personal things with the newspapers. Hence the list of questions you were given prior to this interview."
"America has heard dozens of people's accounts to these questions. They're bored. They want something new about the Titanic sinking." My entire body stiffened as I felt rage welling up within me. All of those faces. All of those voices.
"Sir, if America is bored listening to the stories of how thousands of people died-"
"Ms. Grex, that's not what I'm saying," the reporter insisted, trying to calm me. "All I'm saying is that the world is continuing to turn, despite the Titanic having sunk. Every newspaper in the world has a first hand account of what it was like to watch the Titanic sink. They want something to hope for. A little glimmer of hope to say that things will be alright, despite the tragedy.
"In that, I cannot help you, sir. What I can tell you is this: the Titanic is sunk, people are dead, and things will not be okay."
Moments after the reporter left, Mrs. Widener entered the parlor of her Philadelphia home. One look at me and she shook her head.
"I knew it was a mistake allowing you to talk to a reporter," she began, pacing to the window and then back to the sofa where I sat. "Your parents will be furious when they find out that I've allowed you to speak to one at all." I smirked slightly at the suggestion.
"I doubt that they'll hear of it," I assured her. "It's not as though they get American newspapers in England."
"Still, I shouldn't have allowed you to speak with him." Mrs. Widener and I had become quite close over the past few months, ever since she had offered to let me stay with her.
"I practically forced you to," I reminded her. "I felt as though I needed to do my part."
"Yes, and now you have and it can all be forgotten." Maybe I had done my duty according to society, but the memories of Harry and the others lost in the sinking made me feel otherwise.
Outside, I saw that the world went on, just as he said it did. People were forgetting, sick as it was, the pain and shock when the "unsinkable ship" was swallowed by the sea.
"What was the name of the reporter?" I inquired, having been in so much of a fog during the interview as to have never asked, nor have paid attention if he'd said it.
"Joseph Daniels." He was right, a new version of the story needed to be written if people were to continue to remember the horror with the same vigor. As I did. "If you're going to write to complain, I think that you're completely entitled." For someone who hadn't even been in the room for questioning, she was quite passionate about my displeasure.
"Not exactly, Mrs. Widener." She looked at me inquisitively. "In fact, it's quite the opposite."