Today is the Titanic Remembrance Day – the 107th anniversary of the tragic day when the famed ocean liner sank and claimed the lives of over 1,500 people. To honor the Titanic anniversary, we asked our resident hobbiest Titanic historian and fan to share her thoughts and reflect on its influence on her as she has studied the true stories of the people on board. – Lydia
I have always been fascinated by the R.M.S. TITANIC. Seriously – from the time I can remember first being able to visit the library, I’ve been reading as many books on the subject as I could find. I’ve watched the good and not-so-good documentaries and visited the museum exhibits. James Cameron’s blockbuster movie finally painted in spectacular detail what I’d only seen before in grainy photos. At age 9, my parents even made sure my Easter basket had a CD of James Horner’s orchestration soundtrack. So why do I care SO much? I mean, it’s a tragic event that happened one night over 100 yrs. ago. What’s with the lifelong fascination?
Two reasons, really.
It was such a beautiful, tragic waste.
It took the White Star Line and a team of over 15,000 draftsmen, engineers, and Irish laborers nearly 4 solid years to construct the world’s largest ship from keel to top rail. They spared no expense – rooms, amenities, and finishes were done with meticulous, incomparable care and detail. Never before had there been a ship that was this luxurious, modern, and well, MASSIVE. 11 stories high, 4 city blocks long, triple riveted iron, and seemingly indestructible. Over 20,000 citizens in Belfast showed up at the Harland & Wolff shipyard just to see the first launch. Then, after a mere 5 days at sea – she sank. It was inconceivable.
It was heartbreaking to watch a triumph of human genius, beauty, and power just shatter and sink like it was made of glass. But also a painfully necessary reminder that life IS fragile and despite our best plans and efforts – we are all fallible.
Far more importantly, the details of Titanic are permanently on my heart because it was a rare moment in history when for a prolonged but finite period of time thousands of people had to face almost certain death. Trapped on what was believed to be an unsinkable ship, knowing that there was likely no hope for survival. With lifeboats dwindling and freezing N. Atlantic water at a temp of 28 degrees, they were forced to wait for the moment to come.
And this brought out the best and worst in their character.
On Titanic Remembrance Day, I could focus on the selfishness, the greed, and the cruelty of some in reaction to their fate, but I’d rather look at the noble, selfless, and incredible kindness to strangers that many showed instead:
- John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest passenger on board and at the time, considered the richest man in the world gave up his spot on one of the last remaining lifeboats to 2 young women he did not know. He could have easily bribed his way to survival.
- Missionary Annie Funk had a seat on a lifeboat and gave it up at the last moment to a frantic woman and child she saw on deck.
- The ship’s 8-member orchestra remained on deck, rather than fighting for a spot on a lifeboat, and played hymns, including “Nearer My God to Thee” in a selfless attempt to calm those around them. Not one musician survived. There’s a great book about them called The Band That Played On.
- Two White Star Line telegraph operators, both under the age of 30, chose to remain at their stations long after the crew was released to fend for themselves. Their sacrifice ensured that a distress signal reached the R.M.S. CARPATHIA in time to re-route and rescue survivors in the water later that night.
- A Baptist minister led others to Christ. He prayed with them in his last moments instead of fighting to survive in the water.
- Ida Straus, wife of Isador Straus, the wealthy co-owner of Macy’s department store, left a lifeboat and gave up the spot to her new maid Ellen Bird. She wrapped Ellen in her fur coat and chose to remain by her husband’s side — “Where you go, I go.”
What would you have done in those few hours? What would I have done? Those questions pop into my head every time I think of the TITANIC. 1,517 people were lost that night, April 15th ,1912 and I believe they deserve to be remembered.
Looking for some excellent fiction and non-fiction books to read on the Titanic anniversary? Here are some of my favorites:
Goldie is our resident Titanic fangirl and part Disney princess. You are equally as likely to catch her with her nose buried in a historical novel as you are finding her covered in glitter or singing to puppies. If you’d like to test her on her Titanic knowledge (you’ll lose), give it a shot below or in the comment section of our Facebook page.
Page Chaser is operated by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., (HCCP), the publisher of The Band That Played On.