The Titanic Historical Society

Winnifred (Quick) Van Tongerloo

Continued - Page Two

Upon hearing this several people in the vicinity attempted to force their way but were held back by other men standing nearby. Except for the lifeboat's crew, Mrs. Quick thought No. 11 held only women and children, except for one male passenger. There were about a dozen children including one infant whose mother was in another boat. Mrs. Quick thought the total number of occupants was about fifty people.

The lifeboat had slowly begun lowering away when Mrs. Quick witnessed a heart- rending sight. A mother with a six-month-old baby had been standing near the rail watching. Suddenly Mrs. Quick saw someone throw the baby down into her boat where it was caught by a sailor who placed it in the lap of a woman. The mother tried to break through the sailors and jump into the lowering boat after her baby but the sailors restrained her as gently as possible. The woman staggered and Mrs. Quick thought she would fall to the deck. As boat 11 reached the water the poor woman was leaning over the railing with her arms stretched down toward her baby. The lady who was holding her baby pulled over her coat and held the infant to her breast to protect from the cold.

As No. 11 prepared to row away from the ship, a sailor leaned over the edge of the deck above and shouted down some disturbing advice to the boat's occupants. "For God's sake row fast, or the suction will take you!"

The occupants were silent as they moved away from Titanic. Everyone, that is, except Winnifred, although no longer suffering from sea sickness, she was still crying -- because both her feet were freezing from the water in the bottom of the boat. By contrast, Phyllis was sound asleep in her mother's arms. Mrs. Quick could hear the ship's band playing and at one point was certain she recognized the hymn "Nearer, My God, To Thee."

They were about three quarters of a mile away when the ship's lights failed completely, leaving the sea In darkness. A few moments later Mrs. Quick heard what sounded like an explosion. "Her boilers have exploded," said one of the sailors in the boat. Then there was a thunderous, rumbling noise which Mrs. Quick thought might be machinery breaking loose. She could see the vessel's huge black stern silhouetted against the sky upright. Then it vanished and there was silence. But only for a moment. Then steadily increasing in volume, a terrible sound floated across the water­­ the shrieks and groans of hundreds and hundreds of people freezing to death where Titanic had vanished.

"It is a scene I cannot describe -- cannot forget," wrote Mrs. Quick in later years. "Sometimes I wonder that I did not die of fright -- or go mad." So terrible were the cries of the dying that the sailors in their boat tried to shield their fellow passengers from what was really happening. "They are cheering," claimed one sailor, explaining the people in the water knew they were about to be saved. Mrs. Quick didn't believe that for a minute; she knew that she was listening to the death cries of all those people who had been left behind. Transfixed with horror, Mrs. Quick prayed silently that the lives of her two daughters and herself might be spared and that she might be permitted to see her husband again.

The cries in the distance gradually died away and -- to everyone's relief -- Winnifred stopped her crying as well. "Mother, I'm not afraid anymore. I asked God and He said we're going to be saved. I'm not afraid now." An elderly German lady seated next to her wrapped her warm coat around the little girl. Although Winnifred could not understand a word the woman said, she was lulled by the warmth and security of the woman's arms and fell sleep.

They rowed on in the darkness weighed down by his/her own thoughts. Some women prayed, while others wept quietly. Several people tried to cheer their neighbors and there were quiet conversations about different Incidents and the possibility of being rescued. Although the boat contained no food or water, Mrs. Quick's spirits were buoyed by the encouraging tone of the conversations and felt that they helped others to be brave as well.

Heavily loaded and lying low in the water Mrs. Quick who was seated at the edge of the boat, was able to reach over and drag her hand in it. The boat was so crowded that the rower behind her continually bumped his oar handle into her back with each stroke. Lights from several other boats were visible in the darkness around them, but the sailor in charge made no effort to steer closer to them. He ignored questions the passengers directed at him, and since he seemed to know exactly what he was doing, the passengers were satisfied to put their fate in his hands.

At one point one of the crewmen brought out a flask of brandy announcing that if anyone wanted a sip to help buoy their spirits, they were welcome to share the contents among themselves. "I'll have some" piped up Mrs. Quick, who was beginning to suffer from the cold. She gratefully took a pull from the flask and the liquor did help warm her for a while.

At dawn Winnifred was awakened by the shouts and glad cries of the people around her. A ship was visible In the distance. To Winnifred the rescue vessel seemed to "loom over the horizon." Even though the sea was becoming choppy, the occupants were so excited that many of them stood up and the sailor in charge told them to sit quietly or the boat might capsize. The rowers bent to their oars with a will, eventually pulling alongside Carpathia.

In order to avoid last minute accidents, the survivors were told to keep their seats while preparations were made to take them on board. A sack tied to a rope was lowered down to pick up the children, but Mrs. Quick's hands were so cold that a sailor had to help put in Phyllis. The little girl was hauled up and quickly disappeared over the edge of the deck. Winnifred was next, making the transfer from lifeboat to liner in grand style.

After the two girls had been hauled up a bo'sun's chair was lowered for Mrs. Quick, who climbed into the flimsy contraption. So cold were her hands that she was unable to close her fingers tightly around the ropes and was afraid she would lose her grip and fall into the sea. She closed her eyes as the swing was pulled upwards and a few minutes later found herself safely on board.

A distressing situation arose in the short time since Phyllis had been hauled up on deck. She vanished. It took some time before her mother found out what happened. Another survivor who was crazed with anguish because the whereabouts of her baby was unknown had whisked Phyllis away. The unfortunate woman fastened onto the little girl as a suitable substitute for her and it was with great difficulty that Mrs. Quick was able to have her daughter returned once she tracked her down. Phyllis, meanwhile, was still sleeping peacefully, apparently undisturbed by the dramatic events taking place around her.

The survivors were quickly hauled aboard and Mrs. Quick was a witness to one very special reunion. The mother of the infant that had been tossed down into their boat was on board Carpathia and when her baby was placed safely in her arms, she was the happiest woman in the world.

[THS Historian's Note: this woman was apparently not the same one who had briefly taken charge of Phyllis Quick. It is quite possible, though, that survivor Ruth Becker was instrumental in bringing about the above reunion between mother and child. Ruth had tried to take a seat in boat No. 11 along with her mother, sister, and brother, but was told there wasn't enough room. Ruth moved to the next lifeboat (No. 13) and took a seat in that boat along with a woman whose baby had been placed in lifeboat 11. It seems likely that the woman whose baby had been tossed Into No. 11 would do the same thing Ruth did and try to find a seat in the next boat (No. 13). Ruth promised to help this woman find her baby as soon as they were rescued and she did so once their boat reached the Carpathia.]

The last of Titanic's lifeboats were picked up and Carpathia turned and headed back toward New York. Winnifred was distressed to see many survivors begin to weep when they realized they would never see their missing loved ones again. Later, she observed burial at sea for several bodies recovered from the lifeboats and was greatly moved by the prayers which accompanied the religious service.

Carpathia's passengers did their best to cheer up the grieving survivors and make them comfortable. The cabin the Quicks were assigned was deep in the hold near the baggage and in later years Mrs. Quick mentioned to Winnifred that they had shared a cabin with "Mrs. O'Becker."

[Note: Since Mrs. Allen 0. Becker (Ruth Becker's mother) was saved in boat No. 11 along with Mrs. Quick, it seems possible that it was she to whom Mrs. Quick was referring. Although Ruth Becker didn't recall sharing a cabin with the Quick family. It nevertheless seems likely that Mrs. Quick and Mrs. Becker were at least acquainted with each other.]

A great deal of fog was encountered during her return to New York; one particular night the foghorn commenced loudly repeating. Deep down inside the ship Mrs. Quick awakened in fright, certain Carpathia must have struck an iceberg. She hurried up on deck prepared to learn the worst when a crewman intercepted and calmed her down assuring her that the ship was okay and the foghorn must have awakened her from a bad dream.

The news of the Titanic disaster had already been flashed around the world and along with thousands of others, Fred Quick was at the dock when Carpathia on the evening of April 18. Fred received word by wireless that his wife and daughters were safe, and his mind was considerably more at ease than were those hundreds of anxious people crowded around him. The young husband was even wearing a stylish flat crowned hat which, as he would soon learn, was a type unfamiliar to many people who had never been to America.