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Titanic’s Last Hero

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 17, 2023 3:01 am

Titanic’s Last Hero

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 17, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, (This Day in History: Titanic sank in 1912) - Lowell Lytle has been one of the privileged few who has seen Titanic first-hand. Lowell has played the part of Captain Smith at Titanic events all over the globe and has been entertaining guests at the Titanic Museum for more than fifteen years. He is also the author of the inspiring read, Diving Into The Deep. Here’s Lowell Lytle to tell his story and the story of The Titanic’s Last Hero.

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See for details. And we continue with our American stories. More people have ventured into outer space than have been to where the Titanic rests two and a half miles down on the ocean floor. Lowell Lytle has been one of the privileged few who has seen the Titanic firsthand. Lowell has played the part of Captain Smith at Titanic events all over the globe and has been entertaining guests at the Titanic Museum for more than 15 years. And we're telling this story because on this day in 1912, the Titanic sank. Here's Lowell Lytle to tell his story and the story of the Titanic's last hero.

How do you do? This is Lowell Lytle. I have an unusual story to tell you.

I was home minding my own business way back in 1987. I heard about the Titanic. They've discovered it. And wouldn't you know, I got a phone call from the designer that was building an exhibit Orlando on the Titanic. He called me and said, Lowell, we've gone through 350 actors here in Orlando.

Can't find a captain. He said, I told these men I know someone that can play that part. He's my next door neighbor. I used to be a lead singer in one of my rock and roll bands.

I had eight bands for 22 years touring the United States and Canada. And I went over there on a hoot just to see what was all about. And he opened the door and there was six men sitting around the table. And he said, gentlemen, here's Captain Smith. And they took one look at me and they said, yep, you're it. I didn't know what the captain looked like, but an hour later I went through that souvenir shop and I saw the front page of the New York Times, 1912. Picture of Captain Smith looking right at me. And my first thought was my neighbor has taken my picture and pasted it on the front page of the New York Times.

He shouldn't do that. That's wrong. Well, I was there for about two years and then I heard they were going to dive to the Titanic. And I thought, oh, that would be nice if I could do that.

So I called them and they said, no, I waited two weeks and I call them again. And I said, I'd like to go down to the Titanic. And they said, no, no, that's for archaeologists and important people, wealthy people, people have climbed Mount Everest, millionaires. I waited two more weeks and I, you know, I remember Winston Churchill made a famous speech during World War II. He said, we will fight them in the air, we will fight them on land, we will fight them at sea, but we will never surrender. I remember that he was invited to speak at Harvard University after the war. And the professor said to the students, get your pads and pens ready, because when this man speaks, it's wisdom.

They flew him over from England. The old man hobbled up the microphone and he said, never give up, never, never, never, never give up. And he turned around and sat down.

I never forgot that. That was the best speech I ever heard. I called him again. And I said, I'm the captain of the Titanic. I'm in front of the camera. I'm in everyone's home. I'm the one just talking about your exhibit. I believe if the man could say this man's been down to see this ship, more people would be interested in what I have to say about it.

And you'll get more people there and you'll make more money. It got quiet on the other end of the phone. And the man said, I think you're right. Come along. So I actually packed up and I went to St. John's, Newfoundland. That's where you leave from. And I got there and they looked at me and they said, you're too tall. You won't fit in there. I said, I'll fit in there. I'm six foot four. I'm the tallest and the oldest that's ever been down to the Titanic.

I was 68 at the time. I said, I'll fit in there. Well, we don't have a fire suit big enough for you. Fire suit? What's this about a fire? Well, you'll be breathing 100% oxygen. It could flash to a fire like Apollo 1 did.

Well, if that's the case, I'll be burnt to a crisp in 10 seconds. What good is a suit? They said, well, your name will be written on it. It's for identification.

Identification? I'm that tall guy down there. Well, anyway, I got in the suit. The suit was a little too small, but I did get in one.

Now, when I got on the academic couch, that Russian dive vessel, I noticed on the back end of one of those subs, the protective shield that went around the propeller was held together with duct tape. Now, that doesn't breed a lot of confidence. And I'm thinking to myself, do I really want to do this? All I could think of is, well, I've lived a long life. I'm 68. If I die, I know where I'm going.

That's the important thing. And if I come back, I'll have a story to tell. And I came back and I've been telling that story for 21 years all around the world. I told it in Shanghai, China for two weeks. I told it in Singapore for two weeks. I've been in every state in the United States, every Providence in Canada, where they've had these Titanic exhibits.

Sometimes two or three times, different cities. One day, I was eating dinner. Now, there's twice as many people out there that would like to go down that would get a chance.

So I knew I didn't have any chance. But while I was eating, that fellow that I talked to on the phone came over to me, bent over and said to me, Lowell, you're going down in the morning. And what a unique and original voice we're listening to.

And that is, of course, the voice of Lowell Eitel when we come back, more of Lowell Eitel's story here on Our American Stories. What is Circle? First of all, it's a beautiful shape. It's consistent. A community.

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Listen to Echoes of History, Assassin's vs Templars on I heart or wherever you get your podcasts. And we continue with our American stories and with Lowell Lytle's story about being one of the privileged few who's seen the Titanic firsthand and who also happens to play the part of Captain Smith at Titanic events all over the globe. Let's return to Lowell Lytle and his story. Oh my goodness, my heart began to pound. I couldn't believe it. They're going to let me go down to the Titanic. Well, Fox Television followed me all around like I was an astronaut. Now, first of all, you've got to take your shoes off. In the event that you pick up any oil from that mothership walking on the deck and breathing 100% oxygen, if there's a spark, that would be it. So I took my shoes off, I got inside, and with my long legs, wouldn't you know, I kicked over the oxygen tank. Boy, it didn't take long before that Russian pilot came alive and straightened that thing up. Now, I got no place to sit.

I'm in a ball and six and a half feet in diameter, 19 inches thick, and there's three grown men in there. And it takes two and a half hours to get down two and a half miles to the wreck site. They turned off all the lights to conserve the batteries. Now they turned that hatch down tight, and I knew then I couldn't change my mind. I can't see anything. All I can do is think about what I'm about to see. I'm not going to see a movie.

I'm going to see the real thing. And when they turned on the lights, the Russian pilot says, we're almost there. And I didn't like what I saw. We were going too fast, and we bounced off the ocean floor. Oh my goodness.

Oh my goodness. Of course, it took five minutes for all that dust to settle down. And the first thing that I noticed was the sea life. It was so strange. There's no light that far down on the ocean floor, no sun. So the crabs are white.

The starfish, 13 inches in diameter, five points, but none of them any larger than their little finger. Now, when they turned on the lights, moments later, I was right over the bow. The same spot where Jack in the movie held up his arms and said, I'm the king of the world. I went right over that spot. I said, take me to the captain's cabin.

James Cameron said the side was already gone. They took me there. I was five feet from the captain's bathtub for 10 minutes while they were changing film. I found a wrench down there. The mouth on it was 13 inches across, sticking straight up in the ocean floor like someone had thrown a javelin. And I noticed while I was picking items up off the ocean floor, there was a hat. It looked like a Derby hat. And it was in mint condition.

There's no current that far down. And I told the Russian pilot to go get that. And he did. There are two mechanical arms on the outside of that sub.

And he picked it up and they pushed a button and a basket went out from underneath and he let go of it to fall into the basket. And it disappeared like a cloud. The microorganisms are eating up that ship at such a tremendous rate.

It's going to be an orange spot on the ocean floor within 100 years. Now, I think that hat was probably made out of felt. Had it been made out of leather, it probably couldn't make it.

Because those microorganisms that do not like the tannic process of leather, it repels them. Their shoes and hats and bags. That's why you see those things.

I found enough items that I thought to myself, I'm just going to stay focused on this and not get involved emotionally. But after an hour and a half, all I could think of was what really took place at night. 1,500 souls slipped into eternity. All of them had plans to get to New York and start a new life.

It never happened. Life can be short, folks. Make sure you tell your loved one every day how much you love them. And you better know where you're going because it's going to happen to every one of us. We're all going to die one time or another. When it happens, it'll be too soon. Just remember this.

Eternity is a long time to be wrong. Get it right. In fact, there's a story about a second class passenger. His name is Reverend John Harper.

There's a book entitled The Titanic's Last Hero. It's about Reverend Harper. And he was on his way to Chicago to preach. He had a revival service before he left. And he told the people in that service, he said he was going to go to New York on that new ship called the Titanic the next week. After the service, one of his parishioners came up to him and said, Reverend, I have a bad feeling about that ship. I have an ominous feeling that something bad is going to take place.

I feel so strongly about it. I want you to go to New York, but I don't want you to get on this ship. Please take the Lusitania.

I'll even pay for your ticket. Reverend Harper thought about it. He says, no, the apostle Paul wouldn't run away from danger if anything happened. He said, I'm ready.

And it happened. And when the Titanic started to go down, that Baptist minister ran around the deck shouting, women and children and unsaved people, get aboard the lifeboats. You just can't keep these Baptists quiet. He even gave his life vest to a man that was not a Christian. His daughter, Anna, was standing right next to him and the sister-in-law was standing next to him.

They both survived. The sister-in-law overheard the Reverend when he gave that life vest to that man. He said, here, take this. I don't need it. I'm not going down. I'm going up. He's in the water now, 28 degrees.

It feels like a thousand knives stabbing him. And a man drifted by on a piece of wood and Reverend Harper shouted to the man, are you saved? The man said, no. Reverend Harper shouted, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. The man drifted off into the dark and later the current drew him back. And Reverend Harper again shouted to the man, are you saved yet?

The man said, I can't honestly say that I am. Reverend Harper's last words were, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. And with that, the Reverend slipped under the water and went to that frozen watery grave. There were 12 people pulled from the water that night. Six of them lived.

That man was one of them. And that story was told a few weeks later in Hamilton, Ontario, by that same man who said, I listened to Reverend Harper's last message and became a believer in Jesus Christ with two miles of water beneath me. Titanic's last hero, Reverend John Harper.

God bless you folks. And what a piece of storytelling by Lowell Lytle. Not only his story, not only his passion for the Titanic, but telling the story of the Titanic's last hero as well as perhaps only he can do. We haven't had many better storytellers on this show and many better stories. A special thanks to Lowell Lytle for sharing his story. He has been entertaining guests at the Titanic Museum for more than 15 years. He is also the author of the inspiring read, Diving into the Deep.

Lowell Lytle's story, the story of the Titanic, which sank on this day in 1912 here on Our American Stories. I'm Malcolm Gladwell. I live way out in the country. I drive everywhere.

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