Veteran Stories:
Ruby Boersma

Civilian

  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
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"When the lights went out, Margaret went screaming for her mother, and ran out the door of the cabin. I stayed where I was and started feeling around for the life belts because, I thought, “This is an emergency, and we’re going to need them.” "

Transcript

When the lights went out, Margaret went screaming for her mother, and ran out the door of the cabin. I stayed where I was and started feeling around for the life belts because, I thought, “This is an emergency, and we’re going to need them.” With that, shortly, as I did, Chrissy Horigan came in, and she had said, “Ruby, are you here?” And I said, “Yes, I am.” She said, “We have to go upstairs immediately. There’s something’s gone wrong and… She said, “Our two, and the other two will be under the other bed.” So we got the four life belts, and we started. We each were carrying them, and we started up the stairway after we left the cabin, of course, to get up to the deck.

Now we were several storeys down because it was quite a large boat for passengers. And as we were coming up, I could smell like, a funny odour, which was a smell like gas. And I knew as I was up to the last step, coming up from the cabin to get to the deck, that I was standing, stepping on people. And I kept saying, “I’m stepping on people.” Chrissy said, “Don’t worry about it. Just keep coming. It’s just soft stuff. Don’t worry about it.” And we got up to where we got on deck, and went to go to our lifeboat. With that, Chrissy made sure I had my life belt on. We found Margaret, and got her life belt on. And Chrissy had hers. We couldn’t see Mrs. Calder. And then, finally, we were standing up at our lifeboat station, and Mrs. Calder was down below on the deck, and they weren’t letting anybody else up to our lifestation. So she said, “Well, that’s my daughter and my sister, and the little girl that’s travelling with me. I’ve got to go to them.” And they said, “No. They’ll come down to you.” So we had to leave our lifeboat station, and go back down on to the main deck.

It was a blessing in disguise because the ropes of the lifeboat we were supposed to go into broke, and everybody got thrown into the water. A few people did die from that, either because they didn’t have their life belt or just, you know, circumstances. They lowered another lifeboat down for us, to get into, and as it went down it just went plunging right down. But the ropes didn’t break, and what they had to do for, to get us into the lifeboat, was to grab the ropes and make us hold on to the ropes and slide down the ropes into the lifeboat, which we did.

It was cold, and a little bit frightening as you got down. And they were trying to load us as quick as possible into these lifeboats. I must also point out that it was, like, after seven o’clock at night, so it was getting dark which made it another problem because the boat was lit up as best they could. But it was not the greatest way to get off a ship, I’ll tell you that.

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