One hundred years ago today (21st April 1912) the following article appeared in the Los Angeles Times. It is the testimony of Miss Jessie Leitch, the niece of Rev. John Harper, the minister who died witnessing for Christ during the sinking of Titanic (see other article). A slightly edited version appeared in the June edition of The Monthly Evangel under the title “Beautiful In The Morning.”
About midnight Mr. Harper, the Rev. Dr. John Harper, came to my stateroom and told me that the vessel had struck an iceberg. While I was dreaming he went to learn further particulars and returned to say that orders had been given to put on the lifebelts. I did so. Picking up Nana, his daughter, in his arms he took her up to the deck. There, the women were ordered to the upper deck. I had to climb a vertical iron ladder, and Mr. Harper brought Nana after me up the ladder and the men at the top lifted her up to me again.
There was no opportunity for farewell and, in fact: even then we did not realize the danger, as we were assured again and again that the vessel could not sink, that the Olympic would be alongside at any minute and that the women and children were to be put into the boats first and the men to follow and that there were boats sufficient enough for all. Our boat was well manned and it was the eleventh to leave the vessel.
After about half an hour, the Titanic went down. We were about a mile away, but even then I hoped and expected that Mr. Harper was on one of the other boats. Many of which reached the Carpathia before ours did. How eagerly I looked for his face on the deck as we approached that vessel, but when all the boat-loads had come aboard I feared the worst.
The last day we spent on the Titanic was Sunday. Mr. Harper asked me to read the chapter at our morning family prayers and later we went to the Sunday morning services. The day was quietly and pleasantly spent and when Nana and I went to look for Mr. Harper at about 6 o’clock to go to dinner, I found him earnestly talking to a young Englishman whom he was seeking to lead to Christ. That evening before we retired, we went on deck, and there was still a glint of red in the west.
I remember Mr. Harper saying, “It will be beautiful in the morning.” We then went down to the staterooms. He read from the Bible and prayed and so he left us.
How many people have been lost believing that they had time, that there is no judgment and no hell! How many people have died anticipating another opportunity—stunned into apathy. The Bible says “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) and again, speaking of the Israelites in the wilderness, “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:8)