Stories of Lebanese on the Titanic – Part 2: The People of Hardin

For Part 1, click here.

Hardin is a town in the mountainous region of the Batroun caza, famous for St. Neaamtallah who is famous for his hometown and who made his hometown famous. During 1912, Hardin had 19 people on board of the Titanic. Only 7 of those made it, including a man, two children, an infant and three women.

One of those who survived, named Sileneh Dagher, was a newly wed who was traveling to the United States with her husband, Antoun Yazbeck. Their cabin was close to the water line of the ship so the collision was especially frightening for them. They went out into the hallway to see what was happening. Once they realized the gravity of the situation, they started moving towards the main deck. But many of the passageways, especially those that went through first class areas, were sealed off by passengers for fear of theft. Once they reached the deck, Sileneh and her husband both got into a rescue boat. But an officer held a gun to Antoun’s head and forced him to relinquish his seat, convincing Sileneh that her husband would follow her on another boat. That was the last time she saw him. She later on remarried and changed her name to Celine. She gave birth to 9 children and raised them before dying at the age of 69 on March 10th, 1966.

Sileneh Dagher remarried

Sileneh with her family

The only man from Hardin who survived did so because a foreign woman pitied him and got him to hide under her dress. The man in question, Moubarak Assi, was the deacon of Patriarch Elias Howayek, who’s currently laid to rest in the convent he built in my hometown. Assi went on to start a family and a business in Michigan. He died on February 3rd, 1952.

Mr. Moubarak Assi

Sileneh Dagher wrote to her brother, the former mekhtar of Hardin, about what she went through aboard the Titanic. She spoke about how cruel the officers were to the men who tried to get on the rescue boats. She spoke about how the men of Hardin who knew they wouldn’t be rescued knelt in their last moments and prayed to the Saint of Hardin.

Another story that came from Hardin is the story of Hanna Touma, a man who was in love with a girl from his hometown called Zahiyya Khalil. Both decided to travel to the United States to start a better life but Zahiyya’s parents refused for them to leave without getting married so they tied the knot hours before leaving Lebanon. Aboard the Titanic, a wedding party was thrown for the newlywed the night Titanic hit the iceberg. Once the news of the collision reached them, they continued their wedding party as if nothing happened. Later on, when death was looming, Zahiyya refused to leave her husband’s side despite the officers begging her to. And so they held to each other tight and bid farewell to their lives.

The people of Hardin clinged to their Lebanese heritage until the last moment. According to Moubarak Assi, as his rescue boat was being lowered off the ship, he saw the men of his hometown huddle around each other. Then one of them shouted: “Dabke ya chabeb!” And they faced death with a Lebanese dance, knowing they won’t be saved.

The zajal for the occasion that went on to commemorate the loss went as follows:

ابكي ونوحي يا حردين…..عالشباب الغرقانين
غرق منك حدعشر شاب….. بسن الخمسة وعشرين
منهم سبعة عزابي…..والبقية مزوجين
ما فيهم واحد شايب….. كلن بالخمس وعشرين

Cry and weep, Hardin for your men who drowned.

You lost 11 young men, aged 25.

7 of them are single, the rest are married.

None of them have gray hair, all were 25.

30 thoughts on “Stories of Lebanese on the Titanic – Part 2: The People of Hardin

  1. Elie you don’t understand how much I’m enjoying reading these stories!!!!!!!!! The Titanic tragedy is by far one of my favorite stories in History…and reading stories of Lebanese on board…is just :):):) keep them coming!!

    Reply
  2. That is a nice memory to be left here. I know my father had an uncle that came to North America in the 20’s and never heard from. It was a sad story always told by late father.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Stories of Lebanese on the Titanic – Part 3: The People of Kfarmishki « A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

    • 3 stories that are very short, not correct and don’t tell a story like I’m doing here.
      I suggest you wait for part 4, which Al Arabiya didn’t talk about.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Stories of Lebanese on the Titanic – Part 4: Two Men from Toula & Zahle « A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  5. Pingback: Stories of Lebanese on the Titanic – Part 5: The People of Zgharta & Choueir « A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  6. Pingback: The RMS Titanic and Lebanon « A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  7. My sithu (grandmother) married a Daghor now Decker, and I was told these stories as a child.
    That would have been her husbands sister that was on the boat.
    Fascinating information. Thanks for all the research.

    Reply
  8. I am Celine (Sileneh) Decker’s grandson. I wonder if you could send me the full version of her family’s picture. The children in the picture are my aunts and uncles.

    Reply

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