NEW BERN - This Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship originally called "unsinkable" - the Titanic. Many have come to know the story through a history class or the famous movie made about the event. But a local woman grew up hearing the story through first hand accounts because she had family members on the Titanic the night it went down.
Fay Coutts Blettner of New Bern would not be here today if things had turned out differently for those family members. Her father, William, was one of them. He was sailing on the Titanic at nine-years-old. He was on the ship with his mother and two-year-old brother.
Blettner's grandmother, Minnie Coutts, wrote a letter to a friend shortly after the sinking, explaining what she and her sons went through that night. The letter reads, "I was asleep when the ship struck. The crash was so slight that I thought little of it."
Fay Coutts Blettner remembers this, "my grandmother, she would never talk about it the only thing was this letter."
The letter continues, "Then I woke Willie and told him that there had been an accident, not to be afraid and at no account to cry, even if we did get drowned."
Blettner's grandmother writes about the fight to get Blettner's father into lifeboat number two because he looked older than his age. But Minnie Coutts finally convinced those loading the boats to let her son aboard.
There's also the story of the Titanic officer who gave Blettner's grandmother his own life preserver. The letter reads, "then he got his own lifebelt and tied it on me saying at the same time, there my child, if the boat goes down, you'll remember me."
Blettner also remembers the memories her father had of that night. "They only thing he remembers at nine was the cold and then seeing the rows of the lights on the ship sinking down into the water."
Those aboard lifeboat number two were rescued the the ship, Carpathia. Blettner's father, uncle and grandmother arrived into New York where Blettner's grandfather was waiting for them. Blettner's grandfather had come from England to New York a couple of years before to start a life for his family. He was an engraver, and when he finally saved up enough money, he sent for his wife and sons. That money was used to buy three third class tickets aboard the Titanic's maiden voyage.
The Titanic hit an iceberg on the night of April 14th, 1912, just before midnight. The ship sank around 2:20 a.m. on April 15th. More than 2,200 people were onboard, and of those, a little more than 1,500 died.