In a mere three hours, one hundred years ago, the Carpathia will hove into view on what was a rainy evening in New York harbor. First they will leave the lifeboats that were recovered, then head back up to unload the passengers, greeted by Red Cross workers, family, and @ 40,000 people clamouring at dockside for a glimpse of a loved one. What a moment in history. And now, the Centennial is almost complete.
After being honored to speak yesterday to assembled friends and Nassau Club members in Princeton, my blog tonight seems bitter sweet. In one way there is a feeling of closure for me; in another I have just begun the first leg of my mission to bring my beloved grandfather into TRUE recognition. Many of the male survivors would go on from tonight to suffer the indignity of misperception. Some changed their identies. Some hid. Some even committed suicide. Most of all, they would have to cope with their self-assessments. Although Lindsay Gibbs, author of Titanic the Tennis Story, claims that Karl Behr did speak at the Waldorf Astoria, I did not, and still do not find his testimony there. My feeling is that he might have taken some small amount of time to reckon with his decision; to continue to be active for the Steerage passengers whom he served as one of the seven member survivor committee; to bolster the fund; and to plan how to honor Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia whom he admired and had come to know well through their many exchanges.
As for me, one hundred years later: I find Karl’s spirit drives me on and into my own reckoning. Having had the strength and credibility of my voice through the writing of my book supplanted by another author who never knew my grandparents, but somehow claims to be (and whom others actually see as) an authority, is just about the meanest fate I could ever endure. It hurts Karl and the people he loved. It hurts the amazing, modest, dignified legacy of Dick Williams, who was Karl’s friend and honored rival. Tennis a hundred years ago was a gentelman’s sport. There were no metal lockers slamming, no supercilious jealous quips or vindictive feelings expressed. When Lindsay writes that Karl felt “vindicated” after the Davis Cup was lost in 1914 because he wasn’t able to participate, my heart broke for him and for me. I couldn’t face the truth without shaking: that her claim, however she hides behind “creative license” would be read as gospel by people all over this country, possibly the world; and that my book is cited in the back of hers as a source for accuracy.
Karl was a patriot. He was willing and eager to sacrifice himself for America; to throw himself against German aggression in Europe and to battle for the Davis Cup! He proved this by organizing the “greatest civilian marching demonstration in the history of the world” that took place in NYC after he had helped to found the National Security League and was its youngest member. And he stood by his conviction as he and his fellow German-American compatriots were disallowed, even killed.
Please also see older posts.