COLUMN: Important lessons learned from the Titanic

Published 7:30 am Sunday, April 14, 2024

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After the last American survivor of the sinking of the Titanic died in 2006, her family found a shoe box filled with historical treasures from that fateful night of April 15, 1912.

Lillian Asplund, who died at age 99, rarely spoke of the disaster that claimed the lives of her father and three brothers, including her three-year-old twin brother.  The contents of the shoe box – with her father’s pocket watch, wedding ring, their tickets for the voyage, and other items – were later sold at a London auction.

The British luxury liner Titanic was 882.5 feet long, or approximately the length of three football fields.  At the time of its maiden voyage in 1912, it was the largest ship ever built and carried more than 2,200 people.  Those aboard the Titanic included millionaires like John Jacob Astor, as well as immigrant families, in addition to the crew members – people from all walks of life.

The Titanic sailed from Southampton, England on April 10.  Its destination was New York City, a voyage of five to seven days.  Around midnight on April 15, the ship struck an iceberg 100 miles south of Newfoundland and sank in about three hours.

The disaster brought out the best and worst in people.  There were acts of cowardice and courage, since there were only enough lifeboats for half the passengers.

Approximately 1500 souls were lost, while 705 were picked up by a liner named Carpathia. Another ship, the Californian, was nearby, but did not come to the rescue because its radio operator was off duty and asleep.

Important lessons were learned from this tragedy. Afterwards, every ship had to carry enough lifeboats for every person on board and conduct lifeboat drills.

Investigations following the disaster concluded the ship was traveling too fast in dangerous waters.  But could there be other lessons we can learn from the Titanic?

For instance, two lists were posted at the Titanic’s port in England.  One was titled, “Lost,” and listed the names of those who perished.  The other list, titled “Saved,” gave the names of the survivors.  No matter who they were – whether wealthy, not-so-wealthy, immigrants, officers and crew – each person was either saved or lost.

It has been reported that the ship did not heed warnings of icebergs, presumably because of the “unsinkable” confidence in its construction.  Not only were the warnings ignored, but the distress signal wasn’t heard.  More souls could have been saved.

Think about the people we see – may be on the job next to us or the person in the checkout line behind us.  There are souls around us every day who may be “sinking deep in sin,” as an old hymn says.

The Lord is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  But somebody’s got to tell them that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  As long as there is life, there’s hope.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”