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Fred Schwerin on: The Collision
Fred Schwerin Q: They're almost there, they're almost to America when the collision happens. What's the impact on the Florida? What happens immediately after?

FS: Well the event takes place in the dark at night. It's I believe very early in the morning actually but it's at that hour when you expect things to be quiet and here the ship slams into another ship with obviously great force and clamor and I don't think that very many people if any aside from the captain and a handful of officers had any idea of what had taken place. The passengers and steerage group are all below deck. They can't see what happened. Rumor immediately kicks in and panic ensues. I mean I would say sheer panic.

Q: I mean they must have felt like it was another earthquake all over again?

FS: Yes, you have people who have just been through a devastating traumatic experience feeling perhaps fortunate that they have survived the earthquake on their way with some hope to the New World and lo and behold slam, they are in a situation that in some people's mind could be worst than the earthquake that they had just experienced. I don't think they had any idea of what they were confronted with and I think that they were highly traumatized to begin with and now probably super-traumatized.

From all accounts you have people who don't know what's happened panicked, rumor is rampant as to what could be happening presumably that the ship, the Florida is sinking. They have to begin to lower life boats to take passengers from the other ship, from the Republic, they have to use the life boats from the Florida to help in the transport of people from the other ship and yet you have a group of highly traumatized people who don't really know what's happening, seeing this activity and panicking to the point where they themselves think that they ought to rush for the boats and save themselves where that-, is not the case but very difficult to explain that to people who really have no idea of, of what the situation is that they may be in a boat that's going down and rumor probably is telling them that that's what happening. So you have a real panic situation that requires very stern measures. I mean breaking out arms and literally having to impose order by force of arms.

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