The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Toronto Daily Star (Toronto, ON), Sept. 17,1949

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Death Stares You in Face You Turn to Wife, Say "What’ll We Do Now?

Emil Dahlke

Your name is Emil Dahle and you’re a retired business man from Hazel Park Mich. You and your wife finally got away on the vacation you’ve been waiting for all year. You left Detroit, Wednesday on the steamer Noronic, arrived Toronto on Friday night. You’ve decided to skip the parties on board and you’re sound asleep at 2:35 Saturday morning.

Somebody pounds on the outside wall, shouts "Fire." You know there are a lot of parties and you think someone is kidding. But you get up and open the door and face out on to a corridor filled with smoke and flame.

You turn to your wife, with death staring you both in the face, and you yell "what are we going to do?" You run over to the stateroom window and you see the fire’s not so bad on deck; you push out the screen and a deck hand grabs your shoulder and pulls you out.

You’re looking at the people running in the smoke and fire. Then you’re running too , and all you’re thinking about is getting your wife and yourself out of it. So you run to the side of the ship, and there are only two ways down; a jump or a slide down an hawser.

So you get up on the rail and grab hold of the rope, your eyes filled with tears and the heat singeing your cheeks. You start to slide down and your wife comes right after you and you support her in on your shoulders.

Dragged out of water

Then someone throws you a life preserver and you’re dragged out of the water. And all you’ve got are rope burns and you’re saying "Thank God." and then you think about the people who might not have been so lucky, because you don’t know at the time that most of the people are being taken off the same as yourself.

They bundle you into a taxicab and hurry you up to St. Mike’s. And you’re glad to be spending party of your vacation in a place you never thought you’d be: the emergency ward of a Toronto hospital.

You look around you in the hospital and you see a lot of other people saying Thank God. And a lot of people saying Please God.

You look across the room and see Mrs. Elaine Keddie, the 57, year old wife of the Canada Steamship Lines passenger agent in Detroit, She’s got bandages on her hands, where she pounded on stateroom windows and kept on hammering unknowingly at the glass even after it was broken.

She’s one of the ones who saying Please God, because she hasn’t been able to get any word of her husband. And not far away from Mrs. Keddie you can see Mrs. William Horley of Youngstown Ohio., rocking in her arms her Youngstown friend Mrs. John Gardner asking if anyone had seen her husband.

You can look around this room which hold the aftermath of violent, sudden actions and see contrasting things. Blonde Mildred Briggs of Detroit, who’s used to keep calm in her job as an office assistant to a Motor City doctor, is shaking her head and telling everyone how "wonderful and Courageous" First Mate Jerry Woods of St. Thomas has been. And she remembering that she saw, in the midst of the flame the fury, Capt. William Taylor helping people to get off the boat and Boatswain Bob Morrison of Sarnia "running all over the deck tying ropes, on people helping them down."

And if you’re looking. Emil Dahlke, you can see a woman assuring a reporter,"I’m all right, I’m perfectly fine: I wasn’t hurt at all." and then see the sudden tears on her cheeks as she starts to shudder.

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Date of Original:
Sept. 17,1949
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Randy Johnson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Toronto Daily Star (Toronto, ON), Sept. 17,1949