Submitted by: Cecilia DiPaola
Ancestor / Family Name: DiPaolo Family
Ancestral Town: Italy
It was July twenty-fifth, the last night of our trip on the beautiful floating palace, the Andrea Doria. The passengers were having a gay time. On deck I met Liliana, a woman I had befriended during the trans-Atlantic crossing, who suggested we go for a soda. Liliana and I spent several hours together. Before retiring she said, “Cecilia, I’m going to bed early because we will disembark tomorrow, and I’d like to get some rest.”
It was 9 PM. I sat alone for a while. I thought it was a little too early to go to bed. I went to the ballroom. I enjoyed watching the passengers dance and sing to the soothing strains of “Arrivederci Roma.” My father and mother had gone to see a movie. I was so happy. To me it was all like a dream. I kept thinking of the next day when I would be in the fabulous metropolis I had heard so much about – New York!
I went out on the deck for a breath of air, but I had to go inside again because I felt cold. It was awfully foggy then! Back I went to the ballroom. It was 10 PM. The dancing was in full swing. I was leaning against the door when, suddenly, I heard a crashing sound! The ship rocked from side to side. I had to hold onto the door with all my strength in order not to slide across the room. All were frightened since we did not know what had happened. The thought of that experience still upsets me. I can still remember people crying for help and people looking for members of their families. I was crying too. I wondered where my parents were and what they were doing. I saw people in pajamas, shorts and evening clothes. Terror was written on their faces.
I with others arrived on deck and we waited three hours before the Ile de France and the Cape Ann arrived. Some people dived into the water and were aided by the people in life boats, while others, like myself, used the rope ladders. Members of the crew took us to the Cape Ann where once aboard we were comforted and cared for. I did not sleep a wink that night.
The following morning, I met Liliana and stayed with her since she knew some English. I was exhausted and worried. Liliana assured me she would take care of me if my parents were not found.
At 6 PM we reached New York Harbor. Photographers and newspapermen came on small boats to meet us. At the pier there were even more of them, all anxious to interview us. It was extremely exhausting. Some survivors were met by their relatives and friends. Liliana, too, embraced her relatives and I my brother.
The following day my father and mother arrived on the Stockholm. Finally, after that frightening experience we were all reunited. To this day I thank God we were saved. And I am happy to say, the DiPaola family has been living happily ever since that tragic experience.