Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Connecting Across a Century

I visited the Titanic exhibit in San Diego last weekend. Each visitor receives a "boarding pass" with a passenger's name. You carry this card throughout the exhibit, and the last display is the memorial wall. It's at this wall, inscribed with all 2,200 names of those aboard, that you learn whether your person lived or died. 

These photos are of my passenger's card.  Her name was Mrs. Stanton Abbott. A native of England, she was traveling with her two teenaged sons. She had taken her children back to England from Rhode Island when she left her husband, and she was returning to the U.S. because her boys were homesick. The Abbotts were traveling in third class.

At the memorial wall, I saw that Mrs. Abbott had survived, but her sons had not. I was surprised by how much this fact bothered me. In the one hour I had spent exploring the recreated atmosphere of the lost ship, marveling at the artifacts and reading the history, I discovered I had become quite attached to the Abbott family. This warranted further research.

The Titanic actually offers its own online encyclopedia, so there I learned more about the tragic fate of the Abbotts. While reading, I considered the fact that although times may change, people don't. The Titanic sank 100 years ago, but here was a mother from a failed marriage trying to start fresh and make things right for her children. Don't all of us today know someone just like Mrs. Abbott?

History is the connective tissue of the human race. It's all our story, with dates, places, and people changing ceaselessly but human emotions anchored in constancy. Poor Mrs. Abbott. The sinking of the Titanic was only the beginning of her sorrows.