Author speaks on Titanic tragedy

Jacob Parker

Author Julie Williams, writer of “A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells’ Story of Survival,” was sponsored by WKU Libraries Thursday night, as part of their 13th season of the Far Away Places series.

The RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg and sank to the ocean floor on April 15th, 1912. Out of the more than 2,000 passengers, about 700 survived the disaster. Williams’ great-uncle Albert Caldwell, his wife Sylvia, and 10-month old son, Alden, were among the survivors, one of the only families not to be separated.

During her presentation, Williams described the lives of the Caldwells and addressed some of the questions about how the Caldwells were able to survive.

“Did Albert bribe his way off the Titanic? Was Sylvia really sick?” Williams said.

The Caldwells met in college, on the way to become missionaries  After graduating and marrying, they immediately set out for Siam, modern day Thailand.

During their time in the country, Sylvia became pregnant with Alden, and experienced continual sickness until they finally made the decision to return to the United States.

On the way back, they made a series of decisions that led them to choose the Titanic, and their lives were changed forever. After acquiring a ticket for second class, the Caldwells had their picture taken boarding the Titanic, which is on the cover of William’s book.

Upon arriving, Sylvia asked a crew member if the ship was unsinkable, to which she received a infamous response.

“Madame, God himself could not sink this ship,” Williams said the crew member told them.

But it did.

After the Caldwells made it off the ship, Williams said their lifeboat posed the most complications.

“They were hanging on for dear life,” Williams said.

Williams said her uncle didn’t realize the “unsinkable” ship was actually going to be fully submerged until the Caldwells were about half a mile away in their lifeboat. Williams said she never thought to ask her uncle what happened after the Titanic went under until he was on his death bed.

“There was moment of silence, then the crying began,” she said.

Albert told Williams he tried to just forget.

“You just have to forget the screams, or you go crazy,” she said he told her.

Michael Coutts, WKU Head of Department of Library Public Services, said the thing that he liked most about the book was that it included past and present aspects of the survivors.

“My early interest in Titanic came from learning of a passenger with the last name Coutts,” he said. “There were three on board.”

Amanda Drost, a WKU catalog librarian, said she attended a dinner with Williams held beforehand, and is looking forward to reading the book after attending the event.

“It sounds like a really good book,” she said.

Williams talks more about the events leading up to, during, and after the Titanic disaster in the Caldwells’ lives in her book “A Rare Titantic Family: The Caldwells’ Story of Survival.”