Travis Shingledecker ’13
Have we not all at some point in time been caught belting “My Heart Will Go On” while standing in front of bedroom fans, feeling the cold air brush past our faces, pretending to be standing on the rail of one of the most famous ships of the twentieth century? For the sake of your sanity, I certainly hope the answer is “no.” Nevertheless, while maybe not surpassing the infatuation of diehard “Rose and Jack” romantics, most people do at least possess some sort of interest in or curiosity for one of the most tragic maritime disasters in history.
This past April, the centenary of the crash of the Titanic was marked. The date was April 15, 1912 when the world’s largest, most luxurious “unsinkable” ship collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic during its voyage from Southampton to New York. More than 1,500 people died in little more than three hours as the ship sank.
In accordance with our society’s love of commemorations, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic has led to one of the most grandiose celebrations of the year thus far.
One of the most widely advertised commemorations was the release of James Cameron’s masterpiece, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet in, 3-D. Though I am an admirer of this epic venture, I was not one of those who spent a decent chunk of my weekly earnings to sit in putrid, red chairs in an overly-conditioned theater to feel as if I were, in fact, one of the shipwreck victims of the Titanic through the 3-D experience.
However, while I may have felt that the 3-D movie was slightly morbid, some felt that they needed to go a step beyond the movie to truly capture the essence of that fateful day. Luckily for them, they had the opportunity to board a cruise ship that retraced the very trail of the Titanic until reaching the location of the shipwreck, where a memorial was given.
To give you an idea of what this experience was like, one of the passengers of the ship who actually had an ancestral linkage to the event noted, “You are in the middle of nowhere. And then you look down over the side of the ship and you realize that every man and every woman who didn’t make it into a lifeboat had to make that decision, of when to jump off or stay on the ship as the lights went out…And when the lights went out it was horrendous.”
But, one must wonder why contemporaries are still so deeply enthralled by this tragic event that occurred several generations before them. The answer is rather simple. It is an event that captures the basic essence of humanity that we all embrace or battle against on a daily basis: love, heroism, struggle, fear, self-protection, and hubris. With these in mind, I think we all wonder which one of these characteristics would boil to the top in the heat of an event like a shipwreck.
Remembrance of the tragedy of the Titanic has enabled people to do something that we often forget about all too easily: the impermanence of life. Though we may think we live “unsinkable” lives, the Titanic shows us the inaccuracy of this belief and encourages us to live life to its fullest, as we never know when it may come to a close.