-- Titanic witnessed mankind at its heroic best and selfish worst
Titanic took something from the human race when she went down – innocence, certainty and confidence
Titanic was the technological marvel of her age – the ultimate symbol of mankind’s genius, his victory over the elements and a symbol of hope for the new century.
All human life was aboard Titanic.
It contained millionaires and penniless immigrants, the rich from New York and London, the poor from every corner of Europe, men – and women – who were capable of facing death calmly and others who would do anything to stay alive.
The men of first, second and third class on Titanic shared only this – in every class, the ...view middle of the document...
A stoker who tried to steal a lifejacket from a radio operator was beaten unconscious and left to his fate.
And when Titanic was gone, and a thousand voices screamed in agony in the sub-zero waters of the Atlantic, those in the lifeboats lashed out at them with oars.
The terror of being capsized by the dying was overwhelming.
Titanic witnessed mankind at its selfish worst – and at its very best.
And for 100 years this single, great unanswerable question has haunted our dreams of Titanic – what would I have done?
Here is the inherent human drama of the Titanic. Who will live and who will die?
“You go and I’ll stay a while,” Dan Marvin, on his honeymoon, said to his young wife. He blew his bride a kiss as she stepped into the lifeboat. They never saw each other again.
“You must come with me,” insisted Mrs. Walter Douglas. “No, I must be a gentleman,” her husband stubbornly insisted. They never saw each other again.
Mrs. Isidor Straus, wife of the man who built Macy’s, refused to leave her husband. He, in turn, refused a place in the lifeboat offered because of his age (67).
“I will not go before the other men,” said Isidor Straus, and he sat with his wife in deckchairs, waiting for death.
The couple’s memorial service in New York was attended by 40,000 people.
Lucky few: A lifeboat approaches the rescue ship Carpathia
In both James Cameron’s Titanic and the film A Night to Remember, there is a drunken baker, who looks like comic relief, sucking down a bottle of whiskey, staggering about like Charlie Chaplin and perching on the stern of Titanic as she sits bolt upright in the Atlantic, then slides to her grave.
It was all true.
In reality the Titanic’s drunk was Chief Baker Charles Joughin, of Liverpool, who behaved with insane heroism all night.
Joughin threw women into lifeboats, chucked 50 deckchairs into the Atlantic (straws to cling to) and when he was assigned to number 10 lifeboat as skipper, he jumped out at the last moment and back on Titanic because he thought that leaving the ship would, “set a bad example”.
The Titanic’s comic drunk seems surely marked for death. But the baker rode the stern down and, as Titanic disappeared beneath the surface, claims to have stepped into the Atlantic without even getting his hair wet.
The bottle of whiskey inside him kept Joughin alive in sub-zero waters for hours – far longer than anyone else – and in the end he scrambled on to an overturned canvas lifeboat. Charles Joughin returned to Liverpool and lived for another 44 years.
Who lives another half century and who will die tonight?
In any catastrophic disaster, from 9/11 to the terrible tsunamis of Japan 2011 and Thailand 2004, there is an element of chance in who lives and who dies.
A decision made in a split second can mean the difference between life and death.
What was unique about Titanic was that hundreds consciously chose to die as a matter of honour.
“No woman shall be left aboard because Ben Guggenheim is a...