A Portrait of My Nana, a Beautiful Survivor
This is my great-grandmother Borghild, “Bobbie,” when she was about 16. She’s laughing it up and being goofy on an unknown gentleman’s shoulders at one of Chicago’s beaches in the 1910’s.
Nana would sneak me and my brother into her room when we’d come over to my grandma’s for dinner (Nana lived with my grandparents as she aged) and she’d always pull out a box of Fannie Mae candy and give us some right before dinner. At that time, she was just “Nana” to me, but she was spunky as ever.
I love this photo because though she is “Nana,” she’s clearly “Bobbie” here. She looks like a modern-day girl; hair blowing in the wind, smiling ear to ear, not a care in the world.
But Nana was also a survivor.
She walked away from Chicago’s greatest loss-of-life tragedy, the Eastland Disaster, on July 24, 1915. She was on board the S.S. Eastland with her sister, mom, and uncle for an excursion across Lake Michigan. But the ship never left the wharf at the Chicago River.
With more than 2,500 souls on board, it tipped over into the River, killing 844 people.
Nana and her family were brave and lucky survivors. She was 13, and kept herself afloat for hours trapped in the overturned hull of the ship. She never gave up hope and was rescued.
Many survivors of the Eastland Disaster never went near water again, never went on a ship again, never even talked about the tragedy again.
But my Nana was different.
She didn’t let the tragedy keep her living in fear. She lived every day to the fullest, being grateful for each moment. She went back in the water many times, as you can see in this photo.
Anytime I feel afraid or am anxious, I think of Nana. I feel her survivor’s blood in me and I believe that I would be doing disservice to her name and her story if I miss out on life, even when it’s risky!
I have this picture of her framed on my mantle and see myself in her often.
Nana passed away peacefully in her sleep a few days after her milestone 90th birthday party. I was only 6.
But her legacy, her life, her spirit all live in me. ~shared by @EastlandDisaster