Local WWII survivor shares memories of sinking in the Atlantic

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio -- It has been 75 years since World War II began in Europe and a woman from Broadview Heights remembers it all too well.

Florence Roseman's dining room table is covered with pieces of the past, from the dress she was wearing to the three cent newspaper detailing what's known as the night of terror aboard the SS Athenia.

"I thought we didn't have a chance, as I said to mother, 'I don't think they'll find us out here.' Here you are out in the north Atlantic, pitch black," said Roseman.

Florence was just 14 years old in 1939.

She and her mom were sailing from England to visit relatives when the Nazis fired two torpedoes at the ship.

"There was this terrific explosion and the whole shipped rocked from side to side. When it finally stopped rocking it shuttered and I could feel us sinking," said Roseman.

Of the 1,400 people on board, 138 died.

Florence remembers how she and her mother passed up on a lifeboat that could only take one more.

"We were lucky we didn't get in it because, that lifeboat, one of the ropes broke and it went down under the water," said Roseman.

They eventually found one, and waited in the middle of the Atlantic for rescue ships to arrive. One sailor gave Florence these spare pants to keep her warm. She's saved them along with the issued gas mask, and the magazines and books written about her survival. She says the key is staying positive.

"I'm a worrier, but fairly optimistic. I think you try to keep smiling," said Roseman.

Despite all she went through, Roseman got back on a cruise ship 7 years later to visit relatives, and has been on a few cruises since then.

But here's the ironic part, she doesn't like airplanes, she's afraid to fly.

Follow WKYC's Kristin Anderson on Twitter: @KristinWKYC


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