At 11:40 PM tonight, ship's time, one hundred years ago, Frederick Fleet would bellow those haunting words: "Iceberg, right ahead!" In less than three hours, the crown jewel of modern optimism, along with over 1500 souls, would slip into the icy waters of the Atlantic. Apparently, we don't know the exact number who died, but most accounts place it as over 1500 victims who died that night, or shortly thereafter. On this, the one hundred anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, there will be plenty to read about and watch. Obligatory viewings of Cameron's epic will be mandatory, though some might prefer an earlier viewing which holds up nicely based on the information at hand: A Night to Remember. Some could argue the its accuracy surpasses Cameron's, who seemed more worried about accurate set pieces and china decorations than some of the more important themes and lessons.
For me, I kicked around what to write about this day. I knew that, as a historian and one who always found the story of the Titanic to be fascinating, even before Leonardo and Kate steamed up the back seat of a 1912 Coupe de Ville, I wasn't going to let this pass without saying something. Ah, but what? What can be said that hasn't been said? I certainly don't want to be like those smut scholars who use moments like this to rush out and 'debunk' (usually with poor research or twisted studies) the memory of the moment. I made a stab of it the other day, thinking about one behemoth lesson that we should all take from the disaster, which I'm afraid is sailing under our radars as we, once again, indulge in the intoxicating drink of our own generation's greatness.
But there's another, if I may put on my historian's cap for a moment. Like I said before, I didn't hate Cameron's Titanic. I thought it better than many of its harshest critics. Sometimes the made up dialogue was tiresome, and Cameron's shallow grasp of anything beyond the technicalities could certainly be seen as he lined up cliche after cliche. But more than the sum of its parts, the overall whole was, on first viewing, very emotional and entertaining. And more than many films, it still holds well today. Perhaps some day I'll break down thee thing, but I'm not a film critic, and it would be a layman's take at best.
But there were scenes, especially when the historical events began to nudge aside the boy-meets-girl emphasis of the first half of the movie, that do well in bringing the tragedy to life. Certainly the famous Nearer My God to Thee montage does well, as do certain gut-wrenching displays of human loss and suffering. But one thing, for me, always stood out. The ending. I know many have debated what the ending meant, did she die or was she just revisiting a reoccurring dream. I'll leave that for others. But if you forget the ending, the final seconds of the film, here it is (Note: Finding this on Youtube was easier said than done, this particular version has been 'flipped', that is, you might remember it from a different angle, I don't know why, but in case you notice it):
More on how that works out with my thoughts on the event at a later time. Right now, use it to reflect along with so many in the rest of the world over the events of a hundred years ago. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them.