On the foggy night of May 29, 1914, Ernie Green held on to a corpse in the icy waters of the St. Lawrence River. It was his means of survival after the S.S. Empress of Ireland sunk in a collision.
“Just to think that the ship sunk in 14 minutes,” says Ernie’s grandson, Major David Ivany of The Salvation Army. “I can’t even imagine it.”
Ernie was one of 170 Salvation Army members who were passengers on their way to the church’s international congress in London, England. His parents and sister didn’t survive the disaster.
“At 23, Ernie was pulled from the waters and left with only memories of his friends and family,” says Ivany. “Today I envision him at the family cottage in his late 70s stretching and then swimming powerful strokes. He always had a desire to not only survive, but overcome.”
On May 22, The Salvation Army’s annual memorial service was held at Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the Empress of Ireland monument, to mark the 102nd anniversary of the event that claimed 150 of its members.
Like the Titanic, the Empress had incredible stories of survival and tragedy.
“Ernie said, ‘If I get out of here, I’m going to serve God’ and he did,” says Ivany. “He became a Salvation Army officer/pastor. And family members followed his example.”