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Mount Creative Writers

Pier 54

Kelly Conroy
MSM Class of 2012

Read Part 2: A Rivet of Love

Editorís Note: This story is continued from the past two issues of the Emmitsburg News Journal. Sean and Arlene Stuart were recently married in Belfast, Ireland. Arlene left to prepare their new life in America, joining an Uncle living in Emmitsburg; Sean and Arlene kept in touch by writing letters. Sean plans to join Arlene this month because he was given a spot on the Titanic as one of the crew to do any necessary repairs. This month commemorates the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

Heís so lucky to be on that ship, Arlene rested her head on the back of her seat on the train. It was a long ride from Emmitsburg to New York, but Arlene didnít mind. She thought about the letters they had written. How he had called her beautiful. And how hard he had worked to earn a spot on the ship.

Itís only a few days until Iíll see my husband again, Arlene smiled. Iíd never do things the way we did them again. I should have just stuck with him in Ireland until we could have traveled over together. Oh well, the waiting time is over now!

"One hour until the New York stop," Arlene overheard her neighbor on the train say.

Arleneís eyes slowly closed and she saw Seanís face: his shy smile and his bright red disheveled hair. Heís going to like Emmitsburg, she thought to herself, and he doesnít even know about my other big surprise.

The next thing Arlene saw when her eyes opened was New York City. It was a Monday morning, April 15th. A dark fog hung over the city, but Arleneís face was cheerful.

There were tall buildings cramped close together and lots of people in the streets. Arlene picked up her bag and rushed to be the first one off of the train. She was so determined to be at the front of the pier when the ship pulled in, so she had arrived two days early. Since the Titanic was not due in until the 17th, her first priority, after locating the Titanicís pier, was to find a place to sleep until the Titanic arrived.

A strip of the latest New York fashion stores caught Arleneís attention, but she looked for a sign directing her to the pier. A crowd of people moved quickly past Arlene. Where are they going? Arlene wondered. She smelled fish and saltwater and knew the pier had to be close by. She made her way past tenant houses with clothes hanging out to dry, children playing baseball in the narrow street and factories that reminded her of the ones back in Ireland.

Arlene turned a corner and there was pier 54! Arlene loved the water. It was one of the things that she missed most from Ireland. She walked down a gangplank to a floating dock and dipped her hand in the water and shivered. It was bitter cold. Then, a crowd of people further down the pier started shouting. Arlene recognized some of them as the people who had passed her on her way to the pier. In a second, Arlene was in the middle of the clump of people trying to make sense out of all of the talking.

"Listen up!" a well-dressed man shouted, "Iím a representative of the White Star Line. The Titanic has had an accident and is being pulled into port by the SS Virginian. "

"When are they gonna git here?" a middle-aged man shouted, "My wife and kids are on that ship."

"Iím not sure," the White Star representative replied hesitantly, "probably still Wednesday."

"Probably?" the man demanded, "Weíre just supposed to wonder? I thought you had news and might be able to actually tell us something." The crowd grumbled and voices started shouting over each other.

Arlene slipped out of the group and sat down on the pier. A couple more hours isnít a big difference, she consoled herself. She grabbed an apple out of her bag and looked at the group of people still shouting. There were some young women like herself and old women who fanned themselves from the heat of the day. Children were playing jacks on the ground to pass the time. An old man in a hat kept pacing back and forth, back and forth. If I watch him anymore, Iíll get nervous that something is wrong, Arlene turned her head.

Gradually the crowd lowered their voices and began to disperse. The middle-aged man who had yelled at the White Star representative sat down next to Arlene.

"Iím John," a gruff voice with a dark face introduced himself.

"Arlene," she replied, "So youíre waiting for your wife and children?"

"Yes maíam. I left them in Ireland five years ago."

Arleneís chin dropped, "Five years ago?" she whispered.

"Yup, ye heard me. No choice. I had no work and we had no money. Iíve sent every penny Iíve made back to them."

"I can see why you were upset with what the shipís representative said then," Arlene said.

"Yeah, I just want it to be perfect, ye know?" Johnís voice drifted off, "Who are ye waitiní for?"

"My husband, Sean," Arlene smiled, "We were married just a few months ago."

John and Arlene talked through the afternoon, sharing stories of loved ones in Ireland. The light was just beginning to fade when a bell began to ring and all eyes turned to the White Star Representative who was now standing atop of a large platform. Arlene and John ran over to be closer to hear him. "There is not an easy way to say this. I would spare you the pain if it wasnít the truth. So Iím just going to say it Ö we have received word that the Titanic sunk this morning at 2 am. Some of the crew and passengers have died. We donít know who."

Shrieks of anguish carried into the air even before the White Star Representative was done speaking. Sobs and sobs of desperate shock and despair overwhelmed the crowd. Arlene lost her breath and felt herself falling backwards. John caught her just before she hit the ground and slowly lowered her body to sit down.

"My baby!" Arlene cried.

"Your baby? I thought you were waiting for your husband, Sean?" John asked.

Arlene pointed to her stomach and closed her eyes.

"Youíre pregnant with Seanís child?" John was still piecing the facts together.

Arlene nodded. "But what about your wife and children?" Arlene finally remembered Johnís situation.

"The women and children were given priority on the lifeboats," the White Star representative shouted above the crowds. Arlene fainted again at his words and again John caught her.

How long she was out, she didnít know, but her first words to John were "Iím going to stay here until whatever ship heís on pulls in. I know heís on it. I canít live without him."

"The Travelersí Aid Society of New York has offered to give shelter for anyone waitiní for their family and friends from the Titanic," John explained, "I can show you the way."

Arlene soon found herself on a cot in a long line of cots in a long, bare room. All of these people are waiting for loved ones, Arlene looked around. Dear God, please keep Sean safe. I know he is. Please bring him home soon. Arlene tucked her bag underneath herself and tried to fall asleep. She was tired from the long day but couldnít wait for the next day to arrive. She tossed and turned thinking about the Titanic sinking. I canít believe that huge ship went down. It looked like it could handle anything in the picture . . . Arlene felt water creeping up from her feet to her waist to her side and it almost made its way to her mouth before she awoke with a start. Arlene crawled out of bed and was halfway to the pier before the sun was up.

Arlene wasnít the only one at the pier for long. Slowly but steadily the pier filled with people. Arlene found her spot from the day before and sat down. She gazed at the people around her and listened to conversations.

"My three children were on that boat," a mother cried, "I came on a boat right before them but I thought the Titanic would be safer for them."

"I always thought I would see them again," a fifteen year old girl sobbed, "but now Iím not sure if my parents will make it."

"My brother was on that ship. Iíve been taking care of his family and mine until he could come over. If I know anything about him, Iíd bet heíd be the last one off that ship onto the safety boats," a grown man gazed into the distance.

Water seeped into the crevices of Arleneís eyes as she looked at the people around her. Some of us will go home very happy and some of us will not, Arlene realized. Oh, is it selfish to hope that Sean makes it? Arlene questioned herself. She spotted John playing a game of catch with the children who were waiting at the pier and she thought about his own children. She looked out at the water but there was still no ship. Eventually she made her way back to the shelter, spent another restless night and returned to the pier. Arlene spent another day chatting with strangers about their loved ones on the ship and staring out into the water. She picked up an apple but then set it down. She opened a book but soon closed it. She trudged back to the shelter for a third night.

"It has been confirmed that the survivors will arrive tonight." the White Star representative shouted the following morning to the gathering crowd. Thunder grumbled and lightning flashed in reply. 40,000 people stood beside the pier waiting in anticipation as their bodies froze from the rain. At 9:30 pm, the Carpathia arrived at New Yorkís Pier 54. Arlene squeezed her way near to the front of the group. She watched as men, women, and children shouted and hugged in joy. But she still couldnít find Sean. Arlene waited and waited, shouted his name, and asked people if they knew Sean. Finally, Arlene returned to the shelter without him.

In the morning, Arlene continued her hunt. She was told that a list of casualties was being compiled. She ran into her friend, John, whose look of dejection told her that his family was missing too. After four more days of wandering the pier and the streets and asking questions of every person in sight, no news of Sean had been found.

On April 23rd, the list of casualties was finally released. Johnís wife and children were on the list. John covered his face with his hands and fell to his knees in tears. Arlene struggled to comfort him but she couldnít think of anything to say. Sean name wasnít on the list but he wasnít to be found.

"Itís time for you to go home," John told Arlene, "You canít wait around any longer. Your family will be nervous about you."

"I canít leave without him," she protested.

"Just accept it and go back to the ones who love you," John replied.

"What are you going to do?" Arlene questioned through tears.

"Start over. Go back to my job. Begin again. And cry a lot," he said.

Arlene looked out the window of her train and shouted to John, "Thank you for your kindness." Itís surreal, she thought to herself. How can Sean be gone? Why will John never see his wife and children again? Her whole body shook and her back ached. It had been a long 9 days.

The mountain and the fields told Arlene she was back home in Emmitsburg. She traveled through town center, saw the fountain but did not stop to say hello in Peter Burketís store. Her uncleís house was quiet as she walked to the front door. The lights were out and Arlene was careful to close the door without a noise.

As she turned, she found herself wrapped in Sean strong arms. He lifted her up and swung her around. "You never told me that you were going to pick me up in New York!"

"What? How? Baby!" Arlene shouted in joy, pointed at her stomach and fainted.

Read other articles by Kelly Conroy