Today, April 15th, 2020, marks the 108th anniversary of the sinking of one of the greatest ships to ever sail the sea: the RMS Titanic.
Her tragic story has captivated millions, so much so that the liner is still talked about in the news to this day. She may lie roughly 12, 500 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, but her story has been anything but forgotten.
In honour of the anniversary of the ship’s sinking, I’ve decided to share with you just how much of an impact the RMS Titanic has had on my life. She’s been a constant presence throughout my childhood, and I hope that by reading this you’ll realize how deep her story really goes(and I don’t just mean underwater).
My Titanic “obsession” started when I was about seven years old, via Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House book series. The Magic Tree House series revolves around siblings Jack and Annie, who stumble upon a magical tree house filled with books. These books have the power to transport them to any point in history, like Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.
(If you’re looking for a book series to get younger readers hooked on history, I highly, highly recommend this series. I give it full credit for shaping me into the history buff that I am today.)
One of the historic events that the siblings traveled to was the sinking of the RMS Titanic. (Magic Tree House #17, Tonight on the Titanic)
When I had finished reading this book, I immediately started researching the story behind it. I’d never heard anything like it before, and I wanted to know everything I could about it.
From there, I became a full-blown Titanic fan girl. I wrote about the sinking for a short-story contest, and placed third in the Primary division. I took out every Titanic book from the library that I could get my hands on. I even dragged my Dad to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, to see a real deck chair that had been recovered from the site of the sinking.
(Me sitting in a replica deck chair at the museum)
But, like all phases in a child’s life, I slowly transitioned from all-out fan girl, to fan. Come on, I was only eight or nine years old! At that time, I was just discovering Harry Potter. It was quite easy for my mind to wander from a doomed ship to the magic-filled halls of Hogwarts.
Regardless, I still maintained an interest in the Titanic during that time, and onwards. Because of that, I discovered TSAC (The Titanic Society of Atlantic Canada), and asked my mother to sign me up for it.
(For the record, I know that Ontario doesn’t exactly qualify as “Atlantic Canada”, but my family is from out there, so we’re saying that it counts.)
When the society found out that I had joined, they were thrilled that someone as young as me had taken such an interest in the disaster. So, when my family visited Halifax in the summer of 2017, the president of the society herself gave us a tour of the Titanic burial sites.
(My Dad and I walking among the Titanic graves in Fairview Lawn Cemetery.)
Now, if you weren’t aware, Halifax, being the largest major port close to the site of the sinking, was in charge of recovering the bodies of those who had perished in the disaster. Of the bodies recovered, 209 that were in decent condition were brought back to Halifax to be claimed. However, 150 of the bodies went unclaimed, so they were spread out and buried in three Halifax cemeteries: Fairview Lawn, Mount Olivet, and Baron de Hirsch.
Visiting the gravesites of the victims was an emotional experience for me. For the first time, I was seeing the effects of the disaster up close. And by far the saddest of all the graves I visited that day was the grave of the unknown child.
(The grave of the unknown child)
Located in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the gravestone marks the final resting place of an 19-month-old baby who perished in the disaster, and was unable to be identified for many, many years.(Thanks to DNA testing, it was later revealed that the body belonged to Sidney Goodwin, a third-class passenger.)
It definitely showed me a new perspective of the sinking, to know that someone so young had paid the ultimate price because of a collision with a large block of ice.
The summer of 2018 also changed how I viewed the sinking, as my family visited New York City. NYC was to be the Titanic‘s port of arrival for her maiden voyage, and that’s all I could think about when I was there.
Taking a ferry ride past the Statue of Liberty, I imagined how the survivors must have felt, steaming into the harbour without loved ones and possessions. Instead of an arrival faced with excitement, they faced their arrival with uncertainty for the future, and the loss of the loved ones who should have been there with them.
At the flagship branch of Macy’s, I didn’t share my sister’s excitement in wanting to try on a dress. Instead, I though about how one-time store owners Ida and Isidor Straus had both perished in the disaster; how Ida had refused to be separated from her husband, and died, when she could have been saved.
Even at the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse, I couldn’t help thinking about how it was created in part due to the efforts of the “Unsinkable Molly Brown”, to help prevent similar disasters from occurring.
(The Titanic Memorial Lighthouse)
And of course, those were only three of the Titanic-related sites I saw. Upon our return home, I learned that we’d walked by the former White Star Line offices, where families of Titanic passengers had lined up, anxious for news of their loved ones. I’d thought I’d felt a chill walking by it, but I’d told myself that I was being silly. Why would an old building that housed a Subway restaurant be giving off weird vibes?
(The former location of the White Star Line offices, now a Subway restaurant.)
Finally, the following Fall of our NYC trip brought the newest chapter to my Titanic story. As members of TSAC, my Dad and I were asked to give a presentation on the Titanic at a local retirement residence. After having so much fun doing it, we decided to make history talks a side business for us. We added Halifax Explosion and Oak Island presentations to our list, and set out offering our services to other retirement residences. Making $40 per talk, we stood to make several hundred dollars in bookings from April to June 2020. However, that was around the time when the COVID-19 outbreak started to get more serious, and we lost all of our bookings. I’m not too upset, though, because we’ve been promised to get our presentations rescheduled when it is safe to do so.
And that was my Titanic story. If you were expecting to learn that I was related to a passenger or something, I apologize. But I’m glad that I was able to show you just how much the Titanic means to me. She may have sunk a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care about her!
If you have any Titanic related questions, or want to share how the Titanic‘s story has impacted your life, feel free to send it my way. Since my presentations are stalled, I could use a Titanic fill!
And although I’ve talked a lot about me, don’t forget about those were actually there when the ship sank on April 15th, 1912. Today, join me in remembering them so that their stories are never forgotten.
-.-. — — . / –.- ..- .. -.-. -.- .-.-.- / . -. –. .. -. . / .-. — — — / -. . .- .-. .-.. -.– / ..-. ..- .-.. .-.. .-.-.-
(The last wireless message transmitted from the RMS Titanic. It reads “Come quick. Engine room nearly full.)