The Angel Beneath the Waves - A STORY FROM THE TITANIC

Not a lot is known about Charles Herbert Lightoller. I discovered his story while on a tour through the Titanic Museum in Branson Missouri. Charles was a tall, sun tanned seaman. It was said he had a pleasant quiet demeanor and loved to talk with anyone who would listen to stories about the sea. His mother had died during his childhood, his father abandoned him, soon after, and he had run off to go to sea, at the age of only thirteen.

By 1912, he was a well respected seaman for the White Star Line and was assigned to the maiden voyage of the greatest ocean liner ever built, the Titanic. This ship could not sink. The designers, the owner and most of the wealthiest people in the world were all on board. The guest list including Lord Astor, who was there with his wife, on their way to New York.

Charles had the night off work and was down below in his small room. He was just drifting off to sleep on April 14th, when he felt a bump in the ship's forward motion. Hopping from his bunk, he quickly learned that the Titanic had struck an iceberg.

People could not believe that the ship might sink. They walked the deck as usual until all of a sudden the boat began to list slightly.

The horrors of that night slowly began to unfold. Charles realized that there were not enough lifeboats, and panic in some areas of the boat caused boats to be dropped half full and others were just jumping into the water trying to swim to some of the boats that overturned. They did not realize that they would only survive a few minutes in the cold water. Charles, along with most of the other seamen on board, helped to save as many as they could. Most knew that they would lose their own lives, as the ship seemed to be slowly breaking apart.

Seaman Charles Lightoller moved from place to place on the ship, helping others where he could. Suddenly he found himself standing on the roof of the officer's quarters, the cold black water was lapping at his feet. He helped the last few around him into the last lifeboat. Then finally, there was noting left for Seaman Charles to do, but jump from the roof into the freezing water of the North Atlantic. He expected this was the end, as there were no other ships for miles and they were off course.

The shock of the 28-degree freezing water against his shivering sweating body stunned him. As he struggled to get his bearing and swim away from the ship, he was suddenly sucked back and pinned against a ventilation grate at the base of a funnel that went all the way down to Boiler Room 6. He did not realize that gradually the water had broken through to safety compartments, had gone up the stairs openings and into the center of the ship to the boiler. The museum shows how the 10 inch thick bolts started to snap like match sticks. The ship was now doomed.

Charles found himself stuck against the grate. He could not move. Water covered his legs and then his head in seconds. He was drowning, and going down with the ship.

Suddenly Psalm 91:11 came clearly to his mind: For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways….

At that very moment, as he prayed, a blast of hot air exploded from the belly of the ship, shooting Lightoller like a missile to the surface of the ocean. The boiler had blown up. It shot him right up in the air and away from the ship. Falling into the freezing water he was able to grab a piece of rope attached to the side of an overturned lifeboat. He painstakingly, pulled himself up on top of the upside-down boat.

He writes that he turned and watched, in tears, the last moments of his ship, the Titanic. Her stern swung up in the air until the ship was in "an absolutely perpendicular position." He said, then she slowly sank down into the water, with only a small gulp as her stern disappeared beneath the waves. Then there was silence.

As people were floating nearby gradually seaman Charles Lightoller pulled them on board. There were about thirty men atop the lifeboat, and together they recited the Lord's Prayer, and prayed someone would find them before they froze to death. Lightoller took command of the boat. He related how he had prayed to God, Psalm 91 verse 11. God heard his prayer and in an unusual way had sent an angel to save his life and keep his ways. All those on the overturned boat were saved.

J. David Smith.

 

 

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