Philip Zenni – Mr. Titanic

During the icy, dark night hours of April 15, 1912, terrified passengers were crowding the deck aboard the R.M.S. Titanic, attempting to get into lifeboats as they were being lowered, under capacity, into the water. Men were being pushed back from the lifeboats, as the general rule was “women and children first.” Phillip Zenni, a passenger from Syria and the only known passenger heading to Dayton, Ohio, wasn’t buying it. Everyone should get a chance to get off this boat, he thought. Zenni waited until the officer keeping passengers back had turned his back, and once he was clear, Zenni jumped onto Lifeboat 6, made famous by the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown.


Reportedly the lifeboat on which Molly Brown and Philip Zenni were together. Source

Zenni assisted the other men on the lifeboat with quickly rowing away, as they knew the sinking ship could pull the lifeboat under water. Guided by the morning star, they rowed about two miles away. Helpless, scared, and devastated, the passengers could only watch as the Titanic sank beneath the cold black surface of the water. In the quiet of the night, they could hear the final cries of the remaining passengers sinking with the ship. Hours later, rescue came in the form of the Carpathia, a nearby ship. Later, Zenni would speak of the kindness of the ship’s crew and captain.

Once Zenni made it to Dayton, he got a job at Platt Iron Works in Dayton, but later worked in the confectionery business. He was married when he left Syria, and once settled he sent for his wife and their young son. Back together in Dayton, they had three more children, all daughters.

Zenni toured Ohio telling and retelling his harrowing tale. His audience was held captive as he recounted being sound asleep, startled awake by the sound of the ship hitting the iceberg and running to the upper deck amidst the chaos to find a lifeboat. He became known as Mr. Titanic. Once he arrived in the US, his name was anglicized from Fahim Ruhana Al-Zainni to Philip Zinni. He was listed on the Titanic’s passenger manifest as Fahim Lenni. He died in 1927 due to complications from Typhoid Fever.

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