Over a hundred years ago this week, the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic. On April 15, 1912, news began to reach the general public, and, just as we do now when disasters strike, people paused to record and reflect on what happened.
In Alabama, Charles Manly, a Baptist minister, wrote a diary entry with details of the tragedy:
In Chicago, his daughter, Annie Manly, commented on the disaster in a letter to her mother, Mary Matthews Manly:
“Naturally you have been reading of this terrible disaster at sea, the wreck of the Titanic. It is so distressing. I can’t let myself dwell on it at all, for I’m simply on the verge of tears, when I do, from a sympathy for the survivors whose loved ones had to be left on the ship — a sympathy that does them no good and does me harm if indulged too much. I could not help thinking right away, suppose John & I had been separated in this way, I having to leave him on
the ship & get into one of the boats & then see him go down — awful for the one who lives! How thankful I am that we were spared that on our trip and that you & all of us were spared it!”
As was can see from Charles Manly’s entry, a story was already circulating that, as the ship sank, the band was playing a Christian hymn. This piece of sheet music, published later that same year, retold that story and honored the victims.