On the day of my birth, I was destined to save the lives of my father, mother, brother and sister.
...it was to be an exciting experience....
In the summer of 1915, the Western Electric Company in Cicero, where my father worked, planned an excursion cruise on a steamship for their employees and their families.
My brother, Edward, and my sister, Lillian, were overjoyed. The only trip they ever had was on a streetcar, to the end of the line and back. Mother was expecting a baby in September, but was determined not to let her condition prevent her from going, too.
It was to be an exciting experience for all of them. They talked about what to wear, taking a camera, borrowing a suitcase, buying a diary to make notes about anything special. Most of all, they prayed fervently for good weather.
Their happiness ended when I came into the world, two months prematurely.
As gently as he could, father told the two children, they would not be going on the big boat due to the early arrival of their new baby sister.
Edward and Lillian protested. "Papa, why can't we go anyway, and leave Mama and her baby stay at home?" They pleaded, cried and then demanded to go. Father was patient only so long, then he firmly and loudly declared, "No, no, no!" That was that.
On July 24th, the Eastland steamship, with all passengers on board, started to depart. It began to list to one side, then rolled over and capsized on its side in the river, casting men, women and children into the water. Many had been trapped inside the hull.
Moments before, there had been sounds of laughter, music and happy voices. Now the air was filled with cries for help, screams of the children, sirens blaring signals of distress.
What was to have been the happiest day of the season, turned into an incredible nightmare. Later, it was estimated 844 perished in the dreadful disaster.
I first learned about the Eastland Disaster after I grew up, while reading an account of it, realizing it was a part of my history, having happened in the same year when I was born. I was intrigued by the story.
To learn more, I asked Father if he could remember anything special about the day. Mother said, "Yes, we were lucky we did not go on it." She did not say I was the reason they did not.
Being a caring person, Father told me, "If you had not been born, when you were, it is possible none of us would be alive today."
Wow! My ego soared. I began telling friends and relatives how I saved the lives of my family simply by being born at the right time.
My reign of boasting ended when a cynical person asked, "Why are you taking credit for saving your family? You did not save them, God did!" Skepticism; it made me begin considerable thought and soul searching for my peace of mind. I asked myself, "Can it be? Did the hand of God bring me into the world when He did, to become the instrument through which He saved my family?"
The answer...sometimes God works in mysterious ways.
Yea, if Mother had been on the ill-fated Eastland that day, she might have drowned I, along with her, without ever seeing the light of day, or living to the age of 87.
Praise the Lord.
Recollection by Marie Stritar.
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