So needless to say, I was super excited about going to the exhibit. Even my husband was interested in going. Walking though the exhibit you hear the same music that was playing in the hours the ship was sinking. You go through dark rooms with illuminated words on the walls chronicling the events leading right up to the ice burg hit. There were so many artifacts that I was shocked even survived a ship breaking in two, traveling 2 miles below the sea, crashing on the sea floor and surviving the ocean environment for 100 years. There were dishes and glasses galore. There was even a champagne bottle that was stilled corked with champagne still in it. The strangest thing that fascinated me was the silverware. Just hours before it was held in the finest hands of the most wealthy people in the world. Just hours before they graced the tables of a jovial celebration for Captain E. J. Smith for a "successful" final journey.
At the beginning of the exhibit you get a boarding pass with the name and one or two sentence biography of an actual passenger on the ship. At the end of the exhibit there is a list of survivors and victims. I was a 2nd class woman named Sylvia Mae Caldwell traveling with my husband, Albert, and 10 month old son, Alden. I figured I had a good chance to survive since I was 2nd class and a chick. Ryan got a 3rd class man named David John Barton. I knew Ryan was screwed because he was male. Being 3rd class was basically a death sentence.
As it turned out, my passenger survived along with her husband and son. Ryan didn't fare too well, poor chap. When we left the exhibit I was definitely pleased, but was kind of shocked with myself that I wasn't more emotional. I had seen belongings of people who had perished. I had read of how poorly the 3rd class had been treated. More people died that night than were saved. Why wasn't I all hormonal and weepy like I usually am?
Later that night I Googled Sylvia Mae Caldwell and found a really interesting and detailed website called Encyclopedia Titanica. There was a picture of Sylvia and her family. She was very beautiful. In her biography it stated that she and her husband got a divorce later in life, which made me sad. It even had the biography of her son Alden. He was known to be an unfriendly and reclusive man. That made me sad, too.
I looked up Ryan's passenger, David John Barton. He was on his way to New York to work for the Kodak Company. He was to travel with two of his friends on a different ship, but he failed the medical inspection. How did he fail? "...David failed the medical inspection owing to a blemish on his face which the inspectors declared to be possibly contagious." Could that possibly have been a zit??? A freaking zit on this 22 year old's face is what forced him to board Titanic?! Seeing this young man's face and the photo of the Caldwell family hit me hard. These just weren't characters in a movie. They were real people with real lives and real stories.
There was a list of all available biographies of the survivors and victims of Titanic. I spent way too much time reading about some of these people. I clicked on Rossmore Abbot. He was a 16 year old 3rd class passenger traveling with his 13 year old brother Eugene and mother, Rosa. As the ship was sinking they all three jumped into the sea. His mother was able to make it to a lifeboat, but Rossmore and Eugene did not survive. How awful it must have been for his mother. Jumping into a sea as the ship is sinking, swimming in freezing waters and finally making it to a boat, only to realize that you were separated from your only children. I'm sure she hoped and prayed they made it. The sad thing is that Rossmore's body was found, but was buried at sea and Eugene's body was never found.
The whole burying at sea thing was also something that I couldn't wrap my head around. The ships that came to the wreck site did not have enough embalming supplies or caskets to accommodate all the bodies that were still afloat on the ocean. The wealthy passengers were collected first, so that their estates and insurance policies could be settled quickly. Others, mostly lower class and crewmen were buried at sea. In Rossmore's biography it stated he was body 190.
NO. 190 - MALE - ESTIMATED AGE, 22 - VERY FAIR
CLOTHING - Brown overcoat; grey pants; green cardigan; blue jersey; black boots.
EFFECTS - Watch; chain and fob, with medal marked "Rossmore Abbott"; pocket book empty and two knives.
PROBABLY THIRD CLASS - NAME - ROSSMORE ABBOT
It just seems sad that his mother couldn't lay her sons to rest. I'm sure there were countless more bodies that were entombed in the ship, or left to decay out in the ocean after being swept away in a current. For some strange reason I feel the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead is extremely important, so it just breaks my heart that some of these people were forever lost.
What is interesting is to see the difference of the effects found on the bodies of the 3rd class passengers compared to 1st class. We see that Rossmore's belongings were very simple. Look at famous 1st class passenger John Jacob Astor's information when his body was recovered:
NO. 124 - MALE - ESTIMATED AGE 50 - LIGHT HAIR & MOUSTACHE
CLOTHING - Blue serge suit; blue handkerchief with "A.V."; belt with gold buckle; brown boots with red rubber soles; brown flannel shirt; "J.J.A." on back of collar.
EFFECTS - Gold watch; cuff links, gold with diamond; diamond ring with three stones; £225 in English notes; $2440 in notes; £5 in gold; 7s. in silver; 5 ten franc pieces; gold pencil; pocketbook.
FIRST CLASS NAME-J.J.ASTOR
I suppose it doesn't matter what was found on their bodies, because they couldn't take it with them in the afterlife. I just found the contrasts interesting.
Reading all this made me really think about the true nature of the tragedy. Looking down the list I saw listings for bodies of toddlers and children. I couldn't bear the thought of losing Joe. It made me think to that scene in Titanic with the 3rd class Irish mommy softly speaking the poem Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod to her two children as they lay in bed. She knew there was no way to escape since some of the gates were locked and all the lifeboats were gone. She tried to keep them calm. I'm sure James Cameron used a lot of artistic liberty in this movie, but in some ways, I can see these scenes as being real. How on earth could you handle the sight of your small child being washed away? Knowing they will be terrified and there is nothing you can do about it? I looked at Ryan with tears in my eyes and he suggested I stop reading this stuff. But I couldn't stop.
Then there were the stories of women who had to leave their husbands behind. There was the hope they would find a lifeboat later, but this wasn't the case for many of Titanic's victims. I keep putting myself in those women's shoes. Giving Ryan one last hug and kiss and hoping to see him later. I wonder if I would have insisted on waiting for him so we could board a lifeboat together. Would I have been like Ida Straus? She was a first class passenger traveling with her husband. She was about to get on lifeboat #8 when she turned to her husband and said, "We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go." They were last seen quietly sitting on deck chairs.
I pretty much know for a fact that Ryan would have forced me on a boat so I would survive. I know it must have been devastating for those women to watch the ship break in two and hear all those screams and people swimming and wondering if their beloved was among them.
I get depressed reading back on this post. The Titanic is not a happy story. I just find it interesting to see how God's hand worked in these people's lives. It's weird to think about if certain events would have happened differently then this disaster might not have occurred at all. The crew did not have binoculars to look for ice burgs because they were either not packed on the ship at all, or else locked in a locker and not known to be there. That might have helped spot the ice burg earlier. Perhaps if they weren't hauling ass across the Atlantic they would have seen the burg. Maybe if they would have heeded the ice warnings from other ships they could have prevented disaster.
Then there are the other "what if's." What if there were enough boats for all the passengers? How many more lives could have been saved? What if the crew had been properly trained for a disaster and knew to launch the boats with more people? What if the closest ship to the Titanic- the Californian would have come to their rescue? They were close enough to see the emergency flares go up, but failed to respond.
Life is full of what if's. But we are told that everything happens for a reason. I think it is kind of bittersweet that if David John Barton or Rossmore Abbott would have lived, then it is more than likely that no one today would remember their names. But now I know about their life and their story. And now you do as well.
One of the first questions I would ask God if I'm blessed enough to get to heaven is why he let the Titanic sink. There had to be a reason. There had to be a lesson. What lessons have we learned in these past 100 years? Shipbuilders learned to make their ships safer. Different economic classes were treated with a bit more fairness. The survivors hugged their loved ones a little tighter.