A Titanic observanceWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
The great ship Titanic slipped beneath the waves forever just before 2:30 a.m. April 15, 1912, claiming more than 1,500 lives. The upcoming 100th anniversary of that historic loss has inspired Toledo Free Press to link a number of local events in observance, including a re-creation dinner on the exact anniversary.
As an amateur Titanic historian for many years before the 1997 James Cameron movie, I devour books and library clippings about the doomed luxury liner and the people who died when she sank. Those who become captivated by Titanic lore are said to have “Titanic Fever,” and it is a fascination that rarely fades. There is something primal about the tale of hubris and disaster, fate and coincidence, life and death, that Titanic represents. The real-life story has elements of mystery, romance, adventure, opulence, poverty, hope and tragedy.
I once briefly met the late Millvina Dean, who was then the last living Titanic survivor, and heard her describe a ceremony in which one candle for every victim was lit and set afloat on the Mississippi River. The first time I saw Cameron’s film, all the stories and interviews and impressions converged into a wellspring of emotion and empathy, but it was Dean’s warm hug that enveloped me in that dark theater.
I spent some weekends when I lived in Washington, D.C., seeking monuments, gravestones, exhibits and other historic Titanic markers.
My interest led to a friendship with Jennifer Carter, the first woman to travel to the ocean floor to see Titanic’s broken hull. She and her husband, the late composer Joel Hirschhorn, and I shared many stories of discovery. While living in Pittsburgh, I contributed to Titanic lore when the family of victim Mary Miller Corey shared letters that revealed she was nearly nine months pregnant when she died on Titanic. That had never been reported, and once the letters were documented, copies were filed with the Titanic Historical Society in Massachusetts.
There were more than 50 Titanic passengers heading for Ohio; fewer than half survived. In their memory, and to preserve the legacy of Titanic on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its loss, Toledo Free Press is working with community partners on the following events.
- The April 15 issue of Toledo Free Press will feature stories on local passengers, profiles of local collectors and Ohio’s ties to the great ship. Local collectors and historians should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to participate.
- Toledo Free Press is working with the Toledo-Lucas County Public libraries to organize displays and book lists in participating locations. The Main Library is working on collecting its many Titanic resources for a major display.
- We are partnering with Rave Motion Pictures and Paramount Pictures to offer tickets and movie memorabilia to mark the release of Cameron’s “Titanic 3D,” the weekend of April 6. Watch the Toledo Free Press Facebook page for details on the giveaway and collector displays on-site.
- The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn will host a Titanic artifact exhibit. Opening March 31, the 10,000-square-foot exhibit features more than 300 artifacts — 250 of which have never been displayed in Michigan. There will be extensive room re-creations and a full-scale replica of the Grand Staircase. More on that collection in an upcoming issue.
- The main event of the observance is the April 14 “A Night to Remember” Titanic dinner and ball. A nine-course dinner re-creating the Titanic dining experience, live music from the era by TAPESTRY and ballroom dancing will be featured at the event, with all proceeds donated to the American Red Cross Greater Toledo Chapter. The Red Cross was in New York City when the Carpathia brought Titanic survivors to shore. Honoring the Red Cross with this formal event is a way to pay tribute to the mission and spirit of the organization.
The dinner and ball will take place from 6-11 p.m. April 14 at Central Park West, 3141 Central Park West in Toledo. With a nine-course meal prepared by the chefs from The Pinnacle, special seating at the captian’s table and a Red Cross silent auction (which will include a Titanic lithograph autographed by the late Millvina Dean, the last living Titanic survivor) and Titanic memorabilia dating back as far as the 1930s, the evening will truly be “A Night to Remember.” More details are forthcoming; boarding passes for the limited-seating event will be on sale starting Feb. 26 at the Red Cross “Oscar Night” fundraiser at Owens Community College.
No observances can adequately honor and tell the stories of those lost on Titanic, but these educational and social events offer a modest opportunity to pause and reflect on one of the last century’s most enduring and tragic events.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at email@example.com.