John Law Hume was first violinist on the Titanic. He had a pregnant fiancee. When the ship began to sink, he and the rest of the band continued playing “Nearer My God to Thee,” choosing to comfort the passengers rather than trying to save themselves. Alma Paulsson was a 29-year-old mother of four, ages 2, 4, 6, and 8. They were sailing to America to be reunited with her husband, but all perished. Luigi Gatti managed two Ritz restaurants in London. He was traveling with a teddy bear given to him by his young son Vittorio. He didn’t survive, but the teddy bear did.
RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, England on April 10, 1912, bound for New York City. Four days into her crossing, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 PM (ship’s time). One hundred years ago, at 2:20 AM yesterday, the ship sank in the North Atlantic. Historians estimate that 2,228 passengers and crew were aboard, of which 705 survived.
Her centennial has been observed in some remarkable and bizarre ways. The Titanic Memorial Cruise followed the same route as the Titanic herself. Commemorations were held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the Titanic was built, and Cape Race, Newfoundland, the closest point of land to the Titanic gravesite. Museums were opened in time for the centennial in Southampton and in Belfast, located at the site where the ship was constructed.
In a strange twist, Titanic-themed weddings were popular. Couples at the Grand Hotel in Michigan were married on a replica of the Grand Staircase of the ship; other hotels offered wedding packages as well. (What does it say about your marriage that you began it on the centennial of one of the worst disasters in history?)
On that fateful night a century ago, several warnings indicated an ice field 80 miles long in the ship’s path, but the Titanic steamed full-speed ahead. When she struck the iceberg, she kept sailing; if she had stopped, all her passengers would likely have been evacuated before she sank. None sailing on the “unsinkable” ship thought they might perish on her maiden voyage, but most did. If wise King Solomon had been aboard, he could have warned them: “No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).
Could it be that you and I are aboard our own Titanic this morning? Our culture loves long-range plans and strategies, but would Solomon counsel us to prepare for eternity now? If every morning we surrender our lives to our King and choose to live as though we would meet him today, one day we’ll be right and every day we’ll be blessed.
“Nearer My God, to Thee” is based on Genesis 28, where Jacob met God in a dream at Bethel. The hymn begins, “Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee! E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me; Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee.” Is this your song today?