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Titanic Survivor | Going Down with the Titanic in Third Class

Yankee Plus Dec 2015


Titanic Survivor | Going Down with the Titanic in Third Class
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Excerpt from “Going Down with the Titanic in Third Class,” Yankee Magazine, September 1987.

Very little was ever written about the third-class passengers of the Titanic; reporters, the United States Senate investigation, and the British investigation never bothered to interview any of the third-class survivors. Most of those in third class spoke very little English. But for some, like Titanic survivor Elin Hakkarainen, the memory lingered long enough for her English to catch up….

Titanic SinkingWe could hardly believe that in two more days we would be landing in America. Originally, my husband and I planned on making the trip on board the Mauretania, but we decided to wait a few months so we could make the crossing aboard the luxury liner Titanic. Married just a few months, Pekko and I decided to leave Finland and start a new life in America. Although we were booked as third class, we still enjoyed many “extras” on board and had quite a time in our little group. After a couple of days at sea we settled into a routine: attending church services after breakfast, strolling the decks, and during the evening playing games in the third-class general room.

We would leave the game room very late in the evening, and the night of April 14th was no exception. Just after we returned to our cabin and settled in, Pekko reached to turn out the light when we heard a scraping sound and felt the ship shudder. A few moments later the throb of the engines stopped. Pekko jumped out of bed, slipped into his clothes, and said, “I’m going to see what has happened.” Not thinking too much of all this, I dozed off. But after an hour or so, the murmuring of other passengers in the hall awakened me. I noticed Pekko was still gone, and when I tried to step out of the bed, the cabin was tilted at an angle.

Soon there was a hard and very fast knock at the door, and one of my friends from Finland dashed in to say the ship had struck something and was sinking. “Where is Pekko?” she asked. “He went to see why the ship had stopped. I don’t know where he is now.” “How did he get out of the passageway?” she continued. “All the doors are locked!” I was confused; I didn’t know what to do next. After a few moments I grabbed my purse and life jacket and ran out to the passageway. The door was locked! All of the doors were locked.

Finally a ship’s steward came and gathered a small group of us together and guided us, “Come, there is another way to get to the upper deck.” On the upper deck, it was rather quiet — almost eerie. The deck on the ship’s bow was already under water, and the loud sound of the steam escaping from the funnels had settled down. The lifeboats were guarded by the ship’s officers standing in semicircles around each one. Soon I was motioned aboard a lifeboat, but I still was scanning the listing deck looking for my husband.

We rowed away quickly, watching our ship slide beneath the surface of the water. The screams of those in the water were horrible — I remember calling over and over, “Pekko, Pekko, I am here; come this way.” It was cold on the lifeboat, and I wasn’t wearing warm clothes. I didn’t know if I was falling asleep or freezing to death, but I drifted into unconsciousness.

Soon after, it was daylight, and we could see a ship in the distance — we would be rescued…and made warm. Once aboard the Carpathia, the passengers and crew did their best to console us. We were given clothes, food, and hot coffee. But with all we were given, I was still lacking. I slowly realized the last words I might ever hear from my husband were, “I’m going to see what has happened.” I remember standing at the railing for hours, looking out to the open sea and hoping upon hope that I would discover just one more lifeboat.

Ed. note: Mrs. Hakkarainen’s monetary compensation for the loss of her luggage, belongings, and her beloved husband was $125.


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9 Responses to Titanic Survivor | Going Down with the Titanic in Third Class

  1. Isabel H. March 27, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Thank you for this information! It has certainly helped me a lot. ♥

  2. Lilly April 6, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Thanks! This helped me a lot on my report!!!!! Great information!

  3. Sandra Ashmore April 16, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    Back in late 60’s-70’s, there was an article in Yankee Magazine written by a woman who had survived the Titantic. She had never shared the experience with anyone until she told the story to Yankee Magazine. I thought I had saved that copy, but I couldn’t find it, which really saddened me. This story reminded me of her story. If I remember correctly, she was the only survivor in her family, and was a young girl at the time. If you ever have that issue, I would love to know.

    • Brenda Darroch April 16, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      Hi Sandra,
      This might be the article you’re looking for:

      • steve k anderson sr March 11, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

        I like this article….. I read the followup one, too, Brenda, but my favorite was the 100th anniv publishings April 2012 ….. indeed many family members were shocked to find out at the 50th and/or 75th anniversary that their grandma had relevant stories and just never said so…… one was the fourteen year old polish girl third class …… possibly the one mentioned:
        peeling potatoes finally got fed up after hrs took it upon herself to walk on deck via a short break. as she walked up a man locked the gate and it was pandemonium on deck. Lifeboats were in the water and others were going in and/or being prepared. She admits she had no clue what was wrong…..noticed the beautiful stars….and had zero plans of going anywhere until some ten minutes later: “a big burly crew member took it upon himself to decide I wasn’t going to die that day” (paraphrase). She was cold and alive and said the screams were horrific and then just stopped while some around her sobbed. I also believe this last part is a radio interview her grandson set up lent credence to the lights going out and coming back on (but I can’t remember). No one in her family lived but her and she continued to America.

        • steve k anderson sr March 11, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

          please forgive my typos last comment(I should have proofread). lastly I wanted to add – this big burly man had literally reached over and picked her up and physically put her on boat just as it lowered

  4. missi d April 26, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    125$ in 1913 (as far back as I could go) is the same as $2983.50 today.

  5. Karen April 28, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    My father in law answered the door when a Lutheran pastor of Finnish descent came door to door. It turns out this Finnish pastor’s mother was on the Titanic. When the first documentary was made she didn’t realize that it was only a re-enactment, a realistic re-telling of the actual events and kept on asking, “Why didn’t they save us?” It had to be explained to her that the documentary was made after the fact. It was such a tragedy — if only they had more life boats, if only the other ship was closer.

  6. Ann Carothers October 14, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    My maiden name was Hakkarinen. My grandfather was born in the late 1880s. I have wondered if they were related. He spelled his name with the extra “a” in it too.

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