These unforgettable stories of Titanic survivors capture the bravery, horror, and grief of the disaster that left more than 1,500 people dead in the North Atlantic in April 1912.
Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic when it struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, some 1,500 died in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. A mere 700 people lived on. These are some of the most powerful stories of the Titanic survivors.
Titanic Survivors: The “Navratil Orphans”
A dramatic divorce and scandal brought the young Michel and Edmond Navratil to the bow of the Titanic in 1912.
They were accompanied on the voyage by their father, Michel Navratil Sr., who was still smarting from his recent separation from their mother, Marcelle Caretto.
Marcelle had won custody of the children, but she had allowed them to visit Michel over the Easter holiday. Michel, believing that his wife’s infidelity made her an unsuitable guardian, decided to use that weekend to relocate with his children to the United States.
He bought second-class tickets on the Titanic and boarded the doomed ship, introducing himself to fellow passengers as the widower Louis M. Hoffman, a man traveling with his sons, Lolo and Momon.
On the night the Titanic struck the iceberg, Navratil was able to get the boys aboard a lifeboat — the very last lifeboat to leave the ship.
Michel Jr., though only three at the time, remembered that just before placing him in the boat, his father gave him a final message:
“My child, when your mother comes for you, as she surely will, tell her that I loved her dearly and still do. Tell her I expected her to follow us, so that we might all live happily together in the peace and freedom of the New World.”
Those were Michel Navratil’s last words. Though he died in the disaster, his sons survived. They spoke no English and might have been in serious trouble in New York, but a friendly French-speaking woman who also survived the wreck cared for them.
The publicity surrounding the Titanic’s sinking was what saved them: their photographs appeared in newspapers around the world. Their mother, home in France with no idea where her sons had disappeared to, spotted their photo in the morning paper.
On May 16, more than a month after the ship sank, she reunited with her boys in New York, and all three returned to France.
Michel Jr. would later recall the splendor of the Titanic and the childish sense of adventure he felt while getting into the lifeboat. Only when he grew older did he realize what had been at stake that night and how many had been left behind.