I've seen the movies, read the books, listened to the history lessons, but nothing brought home the full tragedy and loss of that night like my first sight of the hull's ghostly silhouette in the murky gloom. You feel the cold in this place. You strain to identify objects looming in the dark. The silent circling of sharks and fish send shivers up your spine. You can imagine this being the last thing someone saw as the cold sucked heat and life from their body.
I'd heard the numbers before, seen the dramatic reenactments, but when you're in that water you recognize the drive to nurture behind the numbers. Women and children first. It took courage for the men to stand back. To choose this.
One hundred percent of the children in second class survived. Only 86% of their mothers did. People chose this end, stood aside willingly, to save someone they loved. Men and women chose this end, stood aside willingly, to save people they didn't know.
I ran into a crew member. He died doing his job. He is still doing it. I watched him diligently retrace his steps, over and over, a memorial to the 91% of the crew that went down with their ship. I’ve heard the second guessing, that hindsight analysis that they died due to overconfidence, negligence, poor training, stupid mistakes. When it comes to looking this kind of death in the eye, aren’t we all amateurs? How many of us would get it right? How many of us would step back from the lifeboat?
Inside the ship you see the grandeur. I visited the tea room, sat amid opulence submerged. Watched the spectral flame of a tea candle flicker.
Contemplated ghostly grandeur.
But it was the purser's desk that undid me. Perhaps because of the simple and familiarity of something so prominent in my life, a desk full of paperwork. The picture of the man it belonged to, sitting right above it, brought the loss that was the Titanic home in a personal way.
I needed to be back in the air and light.
Along the harbor you'll see a replica of Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyard where the Titanic was built.
There's more to see in Virtual Belfast than the Titanic exhibit. There's much more to the haunting Titanic exhibit than I could show you. Drop in and check it out if you get the chance. You can find it in OsGrid and Kitely.
Update: Stiofan MacTomais, builder on this project and grandson of one of the carpenters who built the Titanic, shared these images of the Titanic build without the water effects. You can see the interior in its full glory.
This post was written as a contribution to Three Word Wednesday. Drop by to see what others wrote or to join the fun yourself.