Monday, April 9, 2012

I Went Back to Titanic

Many of you have no clue that I have been fascinated by the story of Titanic since I was eight. The way it was portrayed in the media was so romanticised but also shrouded in so much mystery since they had not discovered it. I created my own theory in second grade how it really sank (mine stayed in one piece) and was in Nova Scotia when Robert Ballard discovered it in 1985. I believe I embarrassed my parents in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant yelling like I discovered the Holy Grail. This was HUGE! I memorized the National Geographic special and yes I saw the movie a gajillion times.

The movie - ok, yes, it makes it romantic BUT you have to give credit to James Cameron for wanting to capture what happened. Perfect, no - there were flaws and filming oopsies. The story to me isn't necessarily isn't the cross class romance, it's the people treated as second and even third class citizens. People who probably saved for years to take their families to America. It was also filled with names that were making America - the Astors, the Guggenheim's. But - yes, you probably saw it coming a million miles away: it's about the band.

Wallace Hartley and his seven other band members played until the very end. It wasn't Hollywood theatrics, that is true fact. The final song they play in the film, Nearer My God to Thee, Hartley himself introduced to his congregation at home in England. The captain asked and he played to soothe those on the ship. Who really knows if anyone ever recalled if they played or even what they played. The simple act of going down with the ship while trying to help in anyway is an act of valour alone.  Outside of the greed and machismo that ultimately led to the demise of the ship, there were many stories of selflessness and courage in a time where class prejudice was not argued.

I watched the film today 15 years having gone by. When I first saw Titanic, I watched for historical accuracy and to see the Titanic come to life. Today, I watched with 15 more years of life experience. In those 15 years since, I lived in Belfast and had a chance to see where the Titanic was built. I now understand what it is like to fall head over heels in love in a very short time - and at a loss for words if I had to say goodbye so quickly.

It is a period we will never revisit -- a time where class injustice was rampant and enough to sacrifice safety in the name of headlines. Today, if it were to happen, we'd have enough life boats, the Coast Guard would be there immediately -- and the band playing would be on youtube in seconds.
Wallace Hartley
Titanic Memorial at Belfast City Hall
Harland and Wolff Shipyard Belfast
Titanic Life Jacket - Smithsonian

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