Scale of casualties makes Titanic compelling still

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me"… Psalm 23:4

One hundred years ago 2,223 people sailed on the "unsinkable" Titanic bound for New York. They put their faith in the largest man-made object in the world at the time as they set out from Southampton England on this ill-fated voyage.

On board were people of all walks of life from the firemen shoveling coal in the bowels of the ship to the richest man, John J. Astor IV. In between were people of various classes and nationalities that were kept separate based on economics. First class passengers were treated well by the stewards assigned to them as well as the servants who tended to them alone.

When the ship struck an iceberg after midnight on April 15, a huge gaping hole was torn in its side. Wireless operators worked frantically calling out to ships in the area even though they were warned about icebergs hours prior. Several men tried to board the lifeboats even though the first call was for women and children. Sadly, the first lifeboat designed to carry 65 passengers left the ship with only 28. The band remained on board playing to help keep people calm as people entered the lifeboats. Survivors reported their final selection was "Nearer my God to Thee".

Only 705 people survived the tragedy while over 1500 perished. Among the dead was J.J. Astor who put his wife in a lifeboat and remained behind. His money didn't save him or many other wealthy people. Also among the dead were Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Straus who had an interest in Macy's Department Store. Mrs. Straus refused to get in a lifeboat and instead stayed with her husband to the end.

Among the survivors were heroes like Margaret "Molly" Brown who helped numerous people that fateful night and in the days following. She helped row the lifeboat and vocally protested that the boat should go back and help save more people. There were also scoundrels like J Bruce Ismay, president of the company that built the Titanic. During the voyage he touted his authority even to the point of demanding the captain increase speed even after icebergs were reported. His authority quickly faded as he jumped into one of the last lifeboats. When the ship was being built he vetoed the decision to add more lifeboats that could have saved everyone on board because they would clutter the ship. Instead there were lifeboats for only 1/3 of the passengers. Ismay's decision haunted and followed him the rest of his life. He came to be known as the coward of the Titanic.

Why are we still fascinated with a 100 year old shipwreck? One reason is the wide diversity of the people on board and how much people are the same today. Believers or not, over 1500 people perished that night. While the band played that last number I wonder how many were ready to meet the Lord. How many people died with the words "nearer my God to thee" on their lips? I also wonder how many died without hope, without knowing God and the peace He gives. There will be more tragedies in the future but we can take hope in the words of Jesus in John 16:33, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world".

Debra Whittington is a longtime resident of Tucumcari. Contact her at:

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