It will be one hundred years tomorrow that the unsinkable Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage. Since then, the disaster has captured our collective memory, engraving the story indelibly in film, biography, public television, and newscasts.
I first remembered seeing the film “A Night to Remember” in college. It was a semi-documentary of the event, filmed in black and white in the mid-sixties. It was primitive by today’s standards but ever so haunting. For the record, I’ve seen the Leonardo de Caprio/Kate Winslett version too. Romantic, yes. Haunting, no.
I’ve followed the survivors over the years as various PBS programs featured them and their heirs. The last survivor, Millvina Dean, passed away in 2009 at the age of ninety-seven. However, she was only nine weeks old when the liner sank and remembers nothing of that evening.
This is not to suggest it didn’t impact her life. She and her parents were on their way to America to start a new life. When the Titanic sank, her mother, brother, and herself were saved. The father went down with the ship. So the survivors returned to England where Ms. Dean spent the rest of her life. Who knows what would have happened had she reached our country’s shores?
For the record, the second to the last survivor was Barbara Joyce West Dainton. She too was an infant at the time of the disaster; and, like Millvina Dean, her father did not survive. Her family also returned to England.
It’s interesting that the last two survivors of Titanic’s only voyage both lived into their nineties and died within the past five years. Neither was particularly interested in the spotlight of being a Titanic survivor, so in a way I’m glad they didn’t live to see the interest that has been sparked about tomorrow.