One hundred years ago the RMS Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage from England to New York and sank after hitting an iceberg only four days into the journey. The American Red Cross responded to help those who survived one of history’s deadliest maritime disasters, and to offer assistance to families who lost loved ones when the ship went down.
The Titanic left Southampton, England on April 10, 1912, bound for New York City and sank early in the morning on April 15, 1912. Survivors were brought to New York aboard the Carpathia. The American Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee was called into action and offered the survivors shelter, medical attention, clothing, transportation and financial support. A Red Cross representative reported to Halifax to assist with identifying the victims and helping families claim their remains.
The Red Cross report on the Titanic response contains pages of information about people who were assisted after the disaster. According to the report, 130 families lost their breadwinner when the ship went down. Many families traveled with all of their belongings to a new life in the United States and 196 of them lost everything they owned.Titanic at the docks of Southampton.
In one instance, a husband was returning to Canada and his family after working in England for two years. He left behind a young wife and three young girls under the age of 12 who all had medical issues. The young widow had no schooling and no trade to help support her family. The Red Cross gave the family $250 right away to help, helped the mother complete nurse training, and set up a $5,000 trust fund for the children.
In another, a bank clerk from New York was returning after having surgery in Italy, his birthplace. He left behind his wife and four children, all under the age of seven. His family chose to return to Italy and was given a monthly financial stipend, with more money put into trust for the children.
Helping the survivors was a coordinated effort involving several organizations on both sides of the Atlantic, working together to meet the needs of those who survived the ship’s sinking, and dependents of those who did not. Most major cities in the United States launched fundraising drives to raise money to help. All the money collected in the United States was funneled through the Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee, which administered the funds to the other responding relief organizations.
The Titanic’s sinking resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people from all over Europe and the United States. The disaster drew interest worldwide. Newspapers were filled with stories and descriptions of the disaster. Responding organizations had to depend on friends and relatives for information about those who had been onboard. Many of the passengers were from remote villages in varied countries such as Hungary, Sweden, Russia and Syria. The American Red Cross worked with the committee in England to ensure these families received assistance.
One hundred years later, the Red Cross response to the sinking of the Titanic remains an example of how the organization responds to help people in need. Today, the Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year in this country, providing shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to those affected. It provides 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families – in war zones, military hospitals and on military installations around the world; collects and distributes more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and trains more than 9 million people in first aid, water safety and other life-saving skills every year.