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Diana Sodi on: The Transfer of Passengers
Diana Sodi Q: Diana, do you recall any story about how they got into the lifeboat.

DS: I remember mother telling me that one of the cabin boys actually carried Uncle Henry into the lifeboat and helped mother into it and helped my grandmother and great grandmother. I think he was the one that later slipped and fell and was rescued by his, whatever you call them, mate, from totally falling in.

Q: So paint this picture for me: it's women and children first, they're getting into the lifeboats. There's Henry, I imagine doing a bit of screaming himself perhaps. How is everybody reacting and how is Hallie reacting in contrast to that?

DS: Mother told me that Uncle Henry was crying because of his Teddy Bear that he'd left. Mother was busy arguing with him and this is in the middle of lifeboats--women screaming, people trying to get dressed into whatever they could. There was one man that was trying to get into the boat with his wife because she wasn't fully dressed. Total panic.

Q: Tell me about the general sense of what was going on on deck and how Hallie reacted to it?

DS: I think that my mother's reaction to that has to have been panic, chaos, and tragedy, since the people that my family knew in the cabin below were the ones that were killed with the direct impact of the "Florida". All of this drama mixed together, my mother seemed to just be fascinated and just almost taking it in as though it were a movie and registering it all as something she was going to write about later. And strange for a 10-year-old to be so cool and calm.

Q: Tell me about the first transfer to the Florida.

DS: Well I think that because of the incredible fog, usually you do find very quiet, very calms seas and I think that the transfer, given the conditions went fairly smooth. Except for when the pulleys went squeegee on mother's particular lifeboat. I think the drama was the next day when there was no fog and there was heavy seas. I mean, can you imagine trying to get these ladies with wet long petticoats and dresses and whatever they had on, blankets, all dripping, up ladders? I'm sure my grandmother and great grandmother had never been up a ladder in their lives.

Q: Your great grandmother tripped at one point didn't she?

DS: I don't know if any of you have ever tried to get from a life boat. I have tried onto a ship on one of those rope ladders and I was young. And they're swinging in and out. And my great grandmother was not a young woman and she just didn't even make the ladder, and just went into the water. To the total joy of my mother who thought it was fascinating to watch her billow up.

Q: And then the second transfer from the "Florida"?

DS: From the "Florida" to the "Baltic" which they finally were able to reach, thank God, through the wireless because they all thought the "Florida" was gonna sink. I mean, momentarily the whole front of it was crashed in because of heavy seas. Therefore, the lifeboats were bobbing, which is an understatement, and the ladders were swinging out. So it was, for these older ladies, or even younger ladies, very hard to hang on and hard for the seamen to steady them. So I think that was the dramatic actual transfer.

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