TiTANIC Exhibit

April 15, 1912 was a cold Monday that marked Oscar Scott Woody's 41st birthday. But this year there would be no celebration. No cake. No party favors. His wife of 18 months was back in North Carolina while he was somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic sorting mail. Just a month earlier, he and four other carriers were appointed to the R.M.S. Titanic. On this day, he spent his time below deck sorting mail from Europe being sent to America. He had been on the ship a total of four days as it made its way from Southampton to New York. By all definitions, the crossing had gone without incident. The Titanic was the largest ship of its kind, deemed unsinkable. Oscar felt privileged to be chosen to be onboard and part of its crew. So, this birthday, he traded celebration for duty and made only a silent wish to return to his family safely. Alas, that wish was not to come true.

April 15, 1912 found 29-year-old Nassef Cassem Abimona strolling around the third-class deck with his friend, 18-year old Fared Kassen Houssein. Nassef, a native to Syria, was returning to America in order to help run a family restaurant. His travels had taken him from his homeland and a wife who was two-weeks away from delivering their first child. Nassef would not be there for the birth of his son. Instead, he was 375 miles south of Newfoundland in the open waters of the Atlantic aboard the R.M.S. Titanic. The ship carried 2,224 passengers and crew on its maiden voyage. Nassef later described the ship as "a Broadway production, a world of music and lights bound for New York." Unfortunately, only a third of those onboard would ever reach America.

April 15, 1912 at 11:40 p.m. the R.M.S. Titanic, captained by Edward Smith, hits an iceberg. The collision caused the hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard (right) side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea. She could only survive four flooding compartments. The Titanic was sinking. With that reality, passengers and some crew members were evacuated in lifeboats. There were only 20 lifeboats on the Titanic, enough for only 1,178 of its passengers. By the time Nassef and his friend Fared arrive on the upper deck, all the lifeboats have been launched. Left with little choice, Nassef and Fared shake hands, say their goodbyes and dive from the ship into the icy waters of the Atlantic.

Below deck, the mail room was one of the first to be impacted by the collision. But Oscar Scott Woody had not left his post. Woody and four other mail clerks, three Americans and two Englishmen, worked diligently to save the mail in their care. They opened the registered mail cage and attempted to drag some 200 sacks to higher decks to escape the incoming sea water. Titanic steward Albert Theissinger assisted the clerks before he abandoned the task, leaving them behind in two feet or more of rising water.

April 16, 1912 at 2:20 a.m., the R.M.S. Titanic broke apart and foundered with well over one thousand people still aboard. Just under two hours after Titanic sank, the Cunard liner R.M.S. Carpathia arrived and brought aboard an estimated 705 survivors. Unfortunately, Oscar Scott Woody perished in the sinking. His body was recovered a week later by the CS Mackay-Bennett, wearing a cork life jacket. His body was identified by a letter to his wife in his pocket. Nassef, afloat in the Atlantic, managed to swim up to the last rescue boat. He was brought onboard and proceeded to help save five more passengers before reaching the Carpathia.

Today, visitors to the Person County Museum of History can view the documents that assigned Oscar Scott Woody to his charge aboard the Titanic. They can read interviews with Nassef Cassem Abimona as he recounts that fateful night. They can learn how these two Person County neighbors, having never met, faced the same tragedy with honor, duty and bravery. And while their final fates differed that day, both helped to change the world.

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