I was on the train earlier and a couple sitting behind me were discussing the Titanic (and naturally my ears pricked up). One of them, a woman, said that she didn’t think it was ‘that sad’. The man she was with asked her why not and she said “Because it was 100 years ago, get over it already.”
It got me thinking about what it was that has kept me so fascinated and connected to the Titanic all these years. Truth be told, it’s not really about the ship for me, at least not as much as the people on board. That is what I feel connected to, the emotional story. Titanic, in a way, is a representation of humanity - humanity faced with a horrific situation. How differently humans can react, the things we are capable of, both heroic and barbaric. The things we, as humans, can endure both physically and emotionally. And in a way, it saddens me that there is a such a generalized view of what happened that night. Ask someone in the street and they will say, the ship hit an iceberg and lots of people drowned. Someone who had seen one of the many movies might also suggest many people died of hypothermia. But it almost seems as if the story has been told so many times that people have almost habituated to it. And then I remembered one story I had read, and how deeply it had affected me. It was that first story that really made me take in the true extent of the tragedy of that night and I wanted to share it, for those who have not heard it (I am writing this from memory, so if there are mistakes, do correct me, I know how picky us Titaniacs can get…):
After the sinking, the lifeboats were hoisted on board the Carpathia (the ship which picked up the survivors from the water). Two life rafts were cleared of everything and then cast adrift back into the sea. Four weeks later, another ship, the Oceanic sailed through the area where the sinking of the Titanic had taken place. An object was sighted in the water and a boat was lowered. There was found one of Titanic’s life rafts (which had been cleared and thrown back out into the sea the day after the sinking) and on it were three bodies. This means, that these three people had not only managed to survive the sinking itself but had managed to stay alive long enough to find the life raft after it was tossed back into the sea (after the Carpathia and brought aboard all the survivors in the lifeboats the morning after the sinking). These people must have felt such hope after surviving the sinking, perhaps hope again when the life raft was tossed back into the sea and they climbed upon it. But nobody knew they were there. Nobody came back for them. And eventually, these three people, people like you and I, with hopes and dreams and fears and memories, did not drown but, as the Carpathia moved further and further away, slowly died of cold, fatigue and starvation. Can you imagine waiting to be saved but slowly realising no one was coming for you?
That’s what brings Titanic home to me. And that’s why I think it’s ‘that sad’.