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The touching story of Jennie Louise Hansen, the Titanic survivor who literally ran out of tears

Nikola Simonovski

Everybody knows the tragic story of Titanic, the most romanticized ship of all times.The British passenger ship started its one and only cruise from Southampton and never made to its destination. The Titanic was one of the most beautiful and biggest ships to be built at the time.

With an impressive 270 meters length, the cruiser was operated by a crew of 913 sailors and accommodated 2243 passengers. After only five days of sailing, the boat collided with an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. Of all the passengers aboard, more than 1500 died in the tragedy, and around 700 survived the sinking.

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10th, 1912

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10th, 1912

Many of the survivors have been telling their stories and horrors, but one woman survivor has the most intriguing life story, as Titanic was not the only tragedy she survived.

Jennie Louise Hansen was born 20 December 1866, in Racine, US. In 1912 Jennie took a trip to Denmark, accompanied by her husband, Claus Peter Hansen. On their return home, the two were accompanied by Henrik, the younger brother of Jennie’s husband. The three boarded the Titanic in 1912. Unfortunately, Jennie was the only one who made it back home.

Before the trip, Jennie had a feeling that she won’t come back from the trip to Europe. She even told this to her brother and made funeral arrangments for herself.

Maybe this was her gut speaking, and maybe it was a result of Jennie’s past tragedy. 28 years before the Titanic disaster, Jennie worked as a pastry cook in the Blake Opera House and Hotel. In 1884, the hotel was destroyed by a fire. Jennie managed to survive, as she took the last elevator trip, just before the fire destroyed the shaft. Several months before that, Jennie was found unconscious in the kitchen filled with dangerous fumes from the stove.

The Titanic sinking was the final tragedy in Jennie’s life. After only five days spent on the sea, she lost her husband and his brother.

“Untergang der Titanic,” as conceived by Willy Stöwer, 1912

“Untergang der Titanic,” as conceived by Willy Stöwer, 1912

 

Here is the story in her words:

“The first intimation I had that something was wrong was when the engines stopped. We did not notice scarcely any jar when the ship struck the iceberg, but after being on board for several days one gets so used to the pounding of the gigantic engines that when they are stopped it is immediately noticeable.We were in bed, but I rushed to the stateroom door and said to Peter, ‘something has happened, come on and get up right away,’ but Peter told me that it was something of no importance. I opened the door and asked some one, but they only told me to get back into bed. I went back, but I heard the steerage passengers coming upstairs and I looked out again. I saw the cabin stewards with life belts on and people rushing around. I asked again what the trouble was and an officer yelled to me to get a life belt on and get out on deck. Then I told Peter and with Henry we jumped into our clothes and got belts on. By this time, I knew that something awful had happened, and I heard shots fired, but whether they were to scare the panic-stricken steerage people or for distress signals I could not tell. We got out on deck and as the stairs leading to the boat deck were crowded with passengers, we had to climb up on an iron ladder on the outside of the ship.”

 Before he perished, Claus Peter managed to get his wife to rescue boat number 11, telling her that one of them has to survive and tell their story at home.

 
           ” I stood there with Peter and Henry and when an officer told me to get into a life boat, I was willing but when they wouldn’t let Peter go with me I just hung on to him and begged and begged them to let me stay too. An officer grabbed hold of me as I kissed Peter, and threw me into a life boat and I got an awful bump on the head that stunned me for a long while. There were forty women in the little craft and it was crowded. As we were lowered to the water, someone threw a baby over the deck, but instead of it going into the lifeboat, it hit the water and was drowned. Peter threw me my pony coat and I caught it all right.As we pulled away from the sinking Titanic I could see Peter and Henry standing on the upper deck just where they were when we parted. It was the most pathetic sight I ever hope to witness, as the boat broke in two, with the people on board shouting and crying while the band played ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ The night was the most beautiful of the whole trip. The sea was calm and the only bad feature was the cold, due to the fact that we were so near icebergs. We could see the ship sinking and sinking, as it was a fine night. The lights, everyone on the ship, were burning until the explosion occurred, and I watched until I saw the last porthole go under.”
A collapsible lifeboat with canvas sides

A collapsible lifeboat with canvas sides

Jennie arrived in New York, where she was hospitalized. She had suffered a shock so horrifying that it damaged her nervous system. Jennie was unable to shed a single tear after this. Afterward, the woman suffered terrible nightmares. She was staying with her brother Thomas back in Racine. Thomas and his wife often had to hold down Jennie’s bed, as the nightmares had become severe.

Read another story from us: The Titanic survivor who opposed the doctors’ decision to amputate his legs and went on to become a tennis champion

Jennie Louise Hansen got married one more time for Elmer Emerson, who was 19 years younger than her. She died from bronchitis in 1952, at the age of 85. Her remains were buried in the city cemetery in Racine.