From the Philadelphia Examiner http://www.examiner.com/philadelphia
baby and the remains of a tragic night
July 17, 2009
With every new day, the day before becomes history… and as days fade into months and years, people only have their memories and sometimes a keepsake or artifact that accompany those memories. As the people pass on, memories become second-hand stories, but the physical objects remain as silent survivors of another time and place . . . a physical link to the past.
Take for example, an off-white silk scarf… the type of thing that a pretty young woman might throw around her neck to ward off an evening’s chill… an evening like that of April 12, 1912.
On that particular night, eighteen year old Madeleine Astor, wife of the famous millionaire John Jacob Astor, owned just such a scarf. She was pregnant and traveling to New York aboard the RMS Titanic
, and the ship had just struck that famous iceberg.
As the stewards summoned the passengers out of their cabins, Mrs. Astor had wrapped that silk scarf around her neck and gone on deck with her husband, their valet, and Kitty, John’s pet Airedale terrier. Needless to say, there was much confusion and chaos on deck.
As Madeleine passed a young woman carrying a baby, she paused for a moment, took off her scarf, and used it to cover the infant’s head. Madeleine went on with her husband to find a lifeboat. She survived; her husband and the Airedale did not. However, the scarf also survived… but in a roundabout sort of way…
The small infant was Frank Phillip Aks. Only ten months old, Frank and his mother, Leah, were on their way to America and ultimately Norfolk, Virginia, as third class passengers. His father, Samuel, was a tailor who had come to America earlier to establish himself before sending for Leah and Frank.
After receiving the scarf from Mrs. Astor, Leah was standing on deck amid the disorder when a panic-stricken passenger grabbed Frank from his mother’s arms and tossed him into lifeboat number 11. An obviously distraught Leah immediately tried to push her way forward to her son but was stopped by a crew member who thought she was trying to rush the departing lifeboat. Numb from shock, Leah stood helpless and was pushed in another direction. She eventually was pulled into lifeboat number 13.
Meanwhile, baby Frank had been caught by a young woman who wrapped him in a wool lap blanket from the lifeboat. Now covered in both the silk scarf and wool blanket, little Frank waited in the cold darkness with the other survivors, as the Titanic
slipped below the waters and into history.
In the next several hours both lifeboats number 11 and 13 were picked up by the Carpathia, which arrived on the scene as quickly as possible after receiving the Titanic
’s distress call. Again, there was confusion as hundreds of survivors now crowded the Carpathia
’s decks. Everyone seemed to be looking for family and friends…
Leah Aks was among them, when she suddenly saw her child in another woman’s arms. Unfortunately, the woman claimed young Frank as her own and both women were taken before the Captain of the Carpathia
. There, Leah was able to positively identify her baby by a birthmark on his chest. Finally, after several agonizing hours, Mrs. Aks was reunited with her son, who was still wrapped in the blanket and scarf.
In due course, they joined Samuel and began a new life in Norfolk. Leah passed away in 1967. Her son Frank became known as "the Titanic
baby" and attended survivor reunions for many years until his death in 1991. Both were buried in a family plot in Norfolk.
But in a way, they and their story both still live on through two seemingly common objects… pieces of history. Mrs. Astor’s white silk scarf and the plaid wool lap blanket from lifeboat number 11 were kept by Frank and today they may be seen on display in the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia.
They are poignant reminders of a cold, dark night on a lonely sea.
This article written by Carson Barnes and posted with permission of the author. The original article may be found at http://www.examiner.com/x-12089-Tidewat ... agic-night
Thanks to Andy Clarkson for the tip.