You may be saying to yourself, “Whew! I”m glad that’s over with. Maybe now, she’ll talk about something else.”
Well okay, I will. But not yet. I sort of left you hanging back there, on the day we reached Titanic’s wreck site. I wanted to post, but Ack! No luck getting my old laptop to do anything by that point. Eventually, I just quit bothering to turn it on – I could get a connection, but nothing would post. I spent all my very expensive internet minutes watching that little dinosaur walk and walk and walk…
But now I’m home, the laptop is happier with its very own private internet connection, and it just may let me post a blog entry. Maybe even upload a picture. Say something on Twitter or FB. It did let me access email, as long as I promised to delete most of them.
So what happened that day at the wreck site? What did it feel like to be there?
It felt… humbling. When we first arrived, I went out on deck and stared at the water below me. It was dark, and the water looked like all the other ocean water we’d seen on this cruise. But it was different. Because, down there, right below me, the broken ship lay just as she had always lain, every minute of the last hundred years. I stood there and stared at the water, because I could not move away.
Like that night in 1912, there was no moon. A trillion stars lit the sky, but did not lend very much light to the dark sea. The water was calm, with tiny and gentle swells barely moving over the surface. I think it was even calmer a hundred years ago, “like glass” some people said. It was also very cold, but not as cold as it was in 1912. Still, the chilled air made it very clear to me, why so many people on that night did not want to get into lifeboats, or even go out on deck.
In the quiet night, as I stared at the water, I let myself see and hear the events that happened there one hundred years ago. The huge ship listing to starboard as her bow sank slowly under the surface. The crowds of people on deck, huddled in small groups, or walking around, asking for instruction or just information. The lifeboats swung out over the water as crewmen worked the ropes and helped women and children step over into their frightening safety. I could hear the overwhelming shriek of steam escaping from the funnels, drowning out the shouts of crewmen who called for more women and children, and their grunts as they lowered heavy boats down to the water. Rockets flashed in the sky every few minutes, adding their explosions to the noise. I saw people falling from slippery, listing decks, to join others in the water, heard them screaming for help.
One hundred years ago, this spot on the planet was filled with noise and fear and despair.
Here in 2012, our ship floats on a sea of silence, its passengers playing the only role they can.
The biggest lesson from Titanic is the knowledge that all human life is important. Every person who died that night was special to someone. That had been true throughout history, of course, but it had never been acknowledged before. Titanic forced western civilization to see itself in the uncomfortable light of reality, as a society ridden with arrogance and bias. We didn’t learn the lesson all at once, or even completely. But for once, we couldn’t hide from the truth. And in 1912, we were beginning to see how to behave differently. How to believe differently.
This is the legacy of Titanic.