Bert Cross Writes of Disaster
Two of His Own Party Lost
Mrs. B. A. Cross has graciously given the Tribune permission to publish the following letter from her son, Bert Cross, who was one of the Western Electric employees that escaped from the Eastland Saturday morning.
I am very thankful that I am able to be writing to you today. I was on the Eastland when she turned over and by good luck was where I was able to get out. I and five other fellows, all of our department, were standing talking together for a few minutes before the accident.
We were on the promenade deck and near the center of the boat, and others, men, women and children were packed around us as closely as human beings could stand. When the boat started to list toward the river, I was not alarmed. I knew the boat to be cranky and told the bunch that she would straighten up again but she didn't. Even when she was leaning at a 45-degree angle the women and girls were laughing and joking and were not aware of any danger. And then the boat turned over and the fight for life began.
I don't know yet how I managed to get out on the side of the ship. And for the next two hours I worked pulling men, women and little children out of the boat and from the water. If I live to be a thousand years old I will never forget the experience.
The whole river was a mass of struggling humanity, when hundreds were drowning before my eyes. You have probably read about it in the papers but no one can picture the horror of the scene. Men and women covered with blood from broken windows, children and girls struggling in the water calling for help and the people trapped within the boat who never had a chance for their life. The ones in the water were soon recovered if they were alive, but in the cabins, staterooms and on the lower decks it was hours before the steel plates could be cut into and their bodies taken out.
I didn't mind so much the pulling out of people who were alive but when we commenced to pull up dead ones, little girls and boys and even babies strapped in go-carts, then I quit, I couldn't stand it any longer.
Two of our party were lost and all four girls we were talking to a few minutes before the accident lost their lives.
The shop was closed today and I doubt if any of us could have worked anyway. The loss of life, mostly women and girls, will probably amount to 1000, and the whole city is in mourning. There are probably many bodies crushed down into the mud of the river which cannot be recovered until the boat is raised. The boat was undoubtedly overcrowded and that together with her being too high and narrow caused the accident. Well I guess I'll close, love to all from your loving son.
Copyright © South Haven Tribune
reprinted with permission of South Haven Tribune