Bass Mitchell: Remembering the Titantic

Bass Mitchell

Perhaps you recall years ago when the movie “Titanic” came out at the theaters. It was James Cameron’s Oscar-winning blockbuster, then the highest grossing movie in history. It brought that fateful voyage of over 106 years ago back onto the screen and into our lives.

You heard and saw the name “Titanic” everywhere for months after the movie came out, and still do. The bookstores were featuring the many books written about it and still being written. Magazine covers featured it and inside promised articles on every aspect of the movie and the real thing. Video stores displayed copies of the many movie versions made over the years. Chat rooms in cyberspace were dominated by passionate debates about the movie and what actually did happen that night on April 15, 1912, in the chilly, deadly waters of the Atlantic that claimed over 1,500 lives. Numerous websites are available on the internet about the Titanic, featuring everything you could ever possibly want to know and the latest on what we are still learning about it. And chances are you or your family members have seen the movie or at least have had a conversation about it.

Why? Why this fascination with a tragedy so long ago? What is it about the Titanic that still has the power to touch so many people?

I remember asking my daughter Meredith and some of her friends some of these questions. They had seen the movie five times.

“It’s because of Leonardo Di Caprio, right?” I asked.

“Well,” they all replied with giggles, “He is gorgeous.”

But after the giggles died down, the conversation turned serious. One said to me, “I felt like I was on that ship…it was so scary and so sad.” The others agreed.

Meredith, age 12 then, mentioned how unfair she thought it was that on the Titanic there were places no one but first-class passengers could go and how so many of the poorer persons were below deck, eventually losing their lives, even children.

But Dad,” she said, “when it was sinking, they all realized they were on the same ship, didn’t they? Maybe they started to realize that they were not so different from each other after all…that maybe they needed each other.”

“Yes, I guess so,” I replied, a little stunned at how deeply she felt about this and how much she had thought about it.

“We’re all on the same ship,” she said to me, looking out the window of our house and I had a strange sensation that the window had become a porthole.

She was right. The Titanic was the world, is us in many ways. As large as it is, it has grown increasingly small, so that what happens in one part of the ship, one corner of the globe does impact us all.

There are so many leaks springing on this ship, so many crises, and so many problems from hunger to crime to wars that many of us wonder if the ship can stay afloat much longer.

But one thing’s for sure, we are in this together. We all are, whether we like it or not and no matter what our class or station, on the same ship. We survive or sink together. We need each other. There’s no jumping ship this time. No place to jump. The sooner we realize and accept this, working together for the good of all, the better.

It’s like an African American friend of mine told me once, “Well, your ancestors may have come over on the Mayflower and mine slave ships, but we are in the same boat now.”

Bass Mitchell is a United Methodist minister serving Manor Memorial United Methodist Church in New Market, Virginia.