Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Remembering Titanic


In August of last year, I went on a trek with Charity and my sister Caitlin to Branson, MO. Charity and I planned the trip first and halfway during the planning stage Caitlin agreed to come with us. Our goal, pretty much our one and only goal, was to visit the Titanic museum. What is a Titanic museum doing in Branson? Who knows, and really, who actually cares because it's awesome and I didn't have to go all the way to Ireland for a comparable experience. Not that visiting Ireland would ever be a bad thing. It is in my bucket list, after all, I just wasn't fiscally prepared to go to Ireland yet.

So, instead it was Branson.

There is something haunting about passing through corridors and rooms that are identical to the ones used by the passengers on Titanic. I stepped out of time when I entered the room for the Grand Staircase. Yes, they literally recreated it. Music from the film, and you know the music I mean, was piped into the room. We stood there spellbound, overwhelmed both by the majesty of the experience but also the memory of all that was lost in one cataclysmic event. I think the three of us, Charity and I especially, could have stayed in that one room for hours, listening to the music repeat, remembering snippets of scenes from the film, awash with all the sensory experience of being on Titanic.


I could see Thomas Andrews in my mind's eye, walking the corridors, corridors that he designed with his own hand . . . the master architect. I could hear Charles Lightoller instructing his crew. Margaret Brown was there, as were the Astors, and Ismay, the man who didn't want too many lifeboats because it would make the deck look cluttered. They were all there, every single man, woman, and child. If not in the spectral form, at least in memory on the memorial wall where every single name of every passenger is written down.

We held it together pretty well, I think. Wandering through the rooms, awash in too much sensory intake, we weren't crying yet. I honestly was starting to think it wouldn't happen.

Then we entered the music room.

The year we visited Branson was a year where they were honoring the musicians who continued to play as Titanic sank in an effort to soothe both their own fear and the fear of the passengers. In that room stood huge plaques of each musician, detailing his life. Some so young, some not so young. And within the room stood a beautiful grand piano.

As myth tells it, along with many survivors, the last song the musicians played was Nearer, My God, to Thee. Such a stunning hymn that never fails to move my heart. While Caitlin, Charity, and I were in that room, a woman approached the man who had been giving us the tour of the room. To this day I don't know if she was merely another guest like us, or whether she was an employee of the exhibit, but she sat down at the piano and played Nearer, My God, to Thee. If you've ever heard it, you know how deeply it can impact you. But you've never experienced this song until you've heard it played live in the middle of a Titanic memorial. I cried. So hard for the people whose lives were so unnecessarily lost.

That moment, as no other moment could have done, hammered home the reality of what happened that early icy morning of April 15th, 1912. I'm sitting here, writing this for all my readers, and I'm listening to my Titanic soundtrack, listening to this hymn. And I cry all over again. It amazes me how I can grieve for people I never met, people who have been so long dead, but whose spirits still linger in film and in artifacts and in the individuals who still choose to research, remember, and honor them.

I've never written a post about Titanic before, but I decided it was a good year for it. I'd had almost a religious experience at the Branson Titanic Museum and it was well worth repeating here. Oh, there are other rooms, ones that contain the memorial wall, a room with interactive pieces that give you an idea of how steeply the decks sloped as the ship sank, how cold the water really was, and even a chance to send your name via Morse Code. There were plenty of rooms dedicated to recreating the atmosphere of First Class Accommodations, and rooms dedicated solely to the photographs taken by passengers who somehow managed to survive.

But for me, my Titanic experience revolves around the Grand Staircase and that music room. I'm not one to claim things are life-altering, but if anything ever was, it would be hearing Nearer, My God, to Thee in such a setting. Remember the passengers of Titanic. Remember the loss, and remember the joy because this ship was remarkable. It probably would have faded away if not for its tragic end, but as it is, we choose to remember. I choose to remember.

If you get a chance take the VIRTUAL TOUR on the Branson website.

2 comments:

  1. I was also fairly unmoved until that room and the music changed everything for me. It was probably the tearful highlight of the trip for me. So glad we went. :)

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  2. I think what bothers me the most about the sinking of the Titanic, what makes me so very sad over it, is that it was so completely preventable. A series of mistakes, of oversights, of people being deeply stupid led to a catastrophic loss of life. Bugs me a lot.

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