April 15, 1912 at 2:20 a.m. the Atlantic Ocean claimed R.M.S. Titanic, burying the unsinkable ship and over 1,500 passengers beneath the frigid waves. One hundred years later, the cultural phenomenon, the fascination with the Titanic, her crew and passengers is still very much alive.
Of all historical tragedies, why is this one so prevalent in our pop culture? Is it the shift at the time from mankind’s illusion of infallible nature to the realization that misguided conceptions and miscalculations spell disaster? Maybe it’s the excessive opulence of the ship and her passengers. Titanic certainly claims the wealthiest passenger list of any travel related tragedy.
For many, and for the creator of The Titanic Museum, John Joslyn, the magnetic attraction is the people who sailed aboard the doomed destiny. In a little under 3 hours, the lives of over 2,200 people were dramatically changed. Capacity for heroism was put to the ultimate test and people lost everything dear to them. The human condition took center stage and continues to play out through tributes to the lost souls and the survivors of the Titanic.
I stepped aboard the 30,000 square-foot vessel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, hesitant to experience the inevitable conclusion that lie ahead. Upon entering the Titanic exhibit, I was presented with a boarding pass containing the name and short bio of a real passenger who sailed on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. The memory of Gertrude Thorne was now cupped in my hand and for better-or-worse (her fate is revealed at the end of the voyage,) we would take this journey together.
Walking into the entry room of the Titanic exhibit, an overwhelming sense of awe and reverence consumed me. My emotions ranged from peak curiosity to despair and grief as I absorbed the intriguing stories, facts, science, architecture, pictures, artifacts, and loving tributes throughout the building. Time seemed to have no place here, the outside world suspended as I wondered deeper and deeper into the legend, lore, and celebration of the ship, passengers, and crew.
What really struck a chord was the disparity in classes, yet despite the first class passengers undoubtedly enjoying the luxurious end of travel, all areas of the Titanic had an air of grandeur, no matter what your station. Sadly, wealth and station provided many of the advantages it does today, including a propensity to survive. Women and children of the higher class comprise the bulk of survivors.
Though I had a first class passenger ticket on my journey, I found that I inevitably began to identify with the passengers closer to my social status… but, it’s impossible to not get caught up in all of the stories and empathize with every passenger who embarked on that fateful voyage.
I also found it impossible to leave the Titanic Museum without carrying an indelible imprint in my mind and heart. My only regret is that I did not have enough time (due to other press engagements) to explore the museum further. Two hours is not long enough, plan to spend at least three to four, or to budget in a return trip.
The Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge is located at 2134 Parkway. For more information, visit titanicpigeonforge.com