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NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn Commemorates Titanic Centennial

by Ashwin Bhandari
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city council speaker christine quinn
Ashwin Bhandari, WFUV

Quinn's grandmother was one of the few survivors of the sinking ship.

It's been 100-years since the Titanic sank in the Atlantic ocean. While many associate the luxury liner with high society, there were many aboard in the lower classes who were coming to America for a better life.

One of those passengers was New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's grandmother. "She came from a big family, as I've been told her parents were dead. Her older sister had taken an orphan from the village and there were too many mouths to feed, so she had to go to America to meet up with her brother and her cousin."

Quinn's grandmother, Ellen "Nellie" Shine Callagan, was one of the few Irish survivors of the Titanic. A fact that came as a bit of a surprise to her family. "My mother only found out that her mother was on the Titanic because they taught her about the Titanic in school. She came home and said 'Mom, you won't believe it, there was a girl on the Titanic who surived and had your name.' My grandmother said 'No Mary, that was me.' That was eighth grade. It had never been mentioned to my mother or my aunt before that."

Quinn was told not to speak to her grandmother about the harrowing event but that didn't stop her. "Not a surprise to any of you who have met me" Quinn said laughing. 

During her last days Quinn says her grandmother spoke candidly about the event. "Later in life, when she had dimentia, it was all she talked about. In a really sad way, in a state of almost constant terror she would scream 'Get in the boat, get in the boat.'"

Quinn's grandmother was one of the few in the third class cabins that survived. She died in 1993, one of the longest living Titanic survivors at 101 years old.

An exhibit with hundreds of artifacts from the Titanic opened this week at the South Street Seaport Museum. On Thursday, Quinn and foreign dignitaries placed a wreath across the street at the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse. They were joined by the bagpipers of the NYPD's Emerald Society. 

 

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