Happy Friday the 13th. Casey Wyatt here.
As many of us know, this weekend marks that 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. One hundred years ago today, it was a Saturday. I found this out at a cool website – timeanddate.com.
Of course, I could have looked the information up in one of the many Titanic books in my library. The sinking of the Titanic has long been one of my many historical obsessions (other “favorites” include: the Black Death, Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Hartford Circus Fire, the Spanish Flu pandemic). My interest in the ship began long before the movie (which I’ll get to in a moment).
I’m not sure when I first learned about the Titanic. Like all “great” or tragic moments in history, I’d probably learned it in school. When I was a kid, all history was new to me. I didn’t know how the story ended and just had to know. (I don’t know why more people don’t love history!).
The story about the “unsinkable” ship that foundered on its maiden voyage struck a chord. And I wondered, where was the ship? Would I be alive when they found it?
I remember being so astonished when I saw my mother’s copy of National Geographic in 1986 proclaiming the ship had been found. How could I have missed that moment? I was in my sophomore year in college and didn’t know! (I have that issue, by the way!)
No internet back then, folks (oh the horror!). In any case, the ship had been located. No longer was it among history’s unsolved mysteries like what happened to Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa.
When I first heard that James Cameron was making a movie about the Titanic, I remember looking at Hubby and saying -“it’s either going to be a huge success or the biggest flop of all time.” My opinion was only reinforced by the trailers of the ship, vertical and ready to sink. I was terrified to go see it. Come on. I knew it didn’t end well!
The horror those people must have suffered through. Too much to bear. I avoided the movie until March 1998. I went alone to a Sunday matinée. The theater was packed. Packed! The movie had been out since December 1997. Remember – I used to work in a movie theater. This type of steady attendance – unheard of.
I managed to keep my dread at bay, until the early stages of the ship’s sinking. When Captain Smith shut himself into the wheelhouse, the people around me began to sniff. Then openly weep. Other than E.T., I’ve never been so emotionally distraught at a movie. The ending – an arrow to my heart – nearly undid me.
Love story aside. My interest in Titanic reached new heights. I had to know everything!! I’m lucky enough to live very close to The Titanic Historical Society Museum in Massachusetts. So I went (several times). It’s still there in the back of Henry’s jewelry store.
So what does all this mean? Why are so many of us fascinated by this story? I can’t answer that for anyone but me.
For me, it’s always been about the people. The human element. Those could have been my relatives. Or yours. In 1918, my grandmother came to America at 18 months old on a steamship from Italy. I have that handwritten ticket tucked away. My mother gave it to me thinking it was a birth certificate, but I took one look at it and recognized the shipping company letterhead.
Back on Saturday night, April 13, 1912, none of the passengers or crew knew that they were about to become part of the most infamous maritime disaster of all time. They were biding their time, looking forward to the rest of their lives. No different from us.
There are many, many, many lessons to be taken from the Titanic tragedy. But this is the one that sticks with me the most – you never know when life as you know it will end. There is no preparation. No advance warning. We can only live in the moment.
Like, I’m living in this one unique moment right now, typing this blog. So whether you’re moved by historical events or not, unless someone discovers the
secret to time travel, we can only go in one direction – forward!
What say you? Are you moved by history? Is there a tragedy that speaks to you?