Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Titanic and the Centenarian

Last Sunday, I spent Easter afternoon with a 100 year old woman, my spouse's aunt.  She is fascinating company.  She's healthy, has all her mental facilities, and has wide ranging interests - and a hearty appetite and zest for life to match.  She still lives at home, still does her own housework.

I love the several times a year I get to visit with her.  It thrills me when I hug her, and she tells me that she loves me.

And, if she had been born on the other side of the Atlantic - who knows, she may have been on the Titanic.As it is, she is (to me) a link to the day the Titanic sunk.

Yes, she was alive on April 14, 1912.  Granted, she was an infant, but she was alive.  She is living history, a living link (of sorts) with that day many people are going to commemorate today.

On 20 minutes to midnight April 14, 1912, a British passenger line, considered unsinkable, hit an iceberg.  A little more than 2 hours later, it sank. The public on "both sides of the pond" was fascinated then, and they still are now.

As a child, my young adult son built a Titanic model from a kit, and devoured every book Scholastic published on the subject.  I may even have some of them in the deep recesses of my spare room/library.

There are several memorial cruises retracing the route and also visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia.  I thought it crazy at first, but then, reading more about it, I realized that people have come from all over the world to participate.  Some were descendents of people who were on the ship. Some 150 victims are buried in three cemetaries in Halifax.  The city's maritime museum specializes in information on the subject.

So why the continued fascination?  Isn't a disaster a disaster?

Someone made this comparison to me:  what if a plane crashed tomorrow with no survivors, and Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Madonna,  and Oprah Winfrey were on the plane?  (If any of you four are reading this, I am so sorry for dooming you.)  It would be weeks before the news media reported on anything else.

In its own way, this was what happened on the Titanic.  Some of the names of the dead include:  John Jacob Astor IV, (of the Astor family), Isador Straus (co-owner of Macys), Major Archibald Butt (an aide to Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft).  These people were very well known in 1912.

Then there was the drama, the heroism, the lack of lifeboats, the captain who went down with his ship,  the men sacrificing their lives while their wives were able to escape, (noting that Isador Straus' wife refused to leave his side and won her own fame for dying with her husband). And that orchestra.  The famous orchestra that went down with the ship. 

Every element of a good story was present that night.

Can you imagine what would happen today in a similar disaster?  Well, it isn't hard.  There was the Costa Concordia, not exactly cruise ship heroism's finest hour.

Are there any living survivors of the Titanic?  No.  The last survivor (who was born in February of 1912) died in 2009 at the age of 97.  So, our only living link are those centenarians like my spouse's aunt.

My aunt-in-law and the Titanic.  They have so much in common besides their age.  Together, they would have made one heck of a story.

1 comment:

  1. I remember watching, Titanic the movie. Me and my cousins, had a good holiday that day, on the movie release.


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