Chad: I Survived the Titanic!
The biggest film of 1997 is hitting theatres again today. And this time, Titanic will be shown in 3D. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the seeing the movie again. I liked it an all the first time, but I don’t normally devote 3 hours and 17 minutes to the same thing twice. But, recently, after visiting Titanic Pigeon Forge, I completely changed my tune. After boarding the Titanic and experiencing its wonder myself, I can’t wait to step into the theatre and relive one of the greatest tragedies of modern times. Titanic may have hit an iceberg and sunk in the early morning hours of April 15th, 1912, but the ship, her spirit and the memory of her passengers are alive and well. And, I want to take time to honor one of them here at WBKR.com. His name is Alfred Pugh. And, when I visited Titanic a couple of weeks ago, I came to know Alfred very well.
When you enter the Titanic exhibit in Pigeon Forge, you are handed a boarding pass. On the front of that card is the Titanic’s itinerary. The ship departed April 10th, 1912 from Southampton, England en route to New York City. This was the maiden voyage for the ship heralded around the world as the largest and most majestic ship afloat. And Titanic was majestic and HUGE. There were 2,224 people on board when she set sail for the Big Apple.
On the back of the boarding card you are handed at the Titanic cruise terminal is the identity of the passenger you are assigned. And, included with that name is the information historians know about that particular passenger. I was to be 20-year-old Alfred Pugh. He was a member of the Titanic crew. In fact, he was a dining room steward in 3rd class, which was a relatively rare position. Typically, in 1912, cruise ships didn’t serve food to 3rd class passengers. They had to bring their own. Seriously. They had to brown-bag it! But, that’s yet another detail that separated Titanic from other cruise vessels and made her so special and unique. Titanic served its 3rd class passengers much like she served her most elite patrons.
Alfred had worked on cruise ships before. He had already sailed on the Oceanic, which was another ship in White Star Line’s fleet. White Star Line was the company that owned and operated this “Olympic” fleet of ships. Alfred worked alongside his brother and the two jumped at the opportunity to be a part of history and join the crew of Titanic. But, with this adventure they, and everyone else on board, got much more than they bargained for. They truly had to fight for their lives.
And that’s the really awesome and ultimately moving part of the Titanic experience. At the end of your tour at the exhibit in Pigeon Forge, you happen upon on the memorial wall. Every single passenger aboard the ship is listed. But sadly, so are their fates. You actually learn which passengers lived and which ones perished at sea. I am not going to lie, I was secretly crossing my fingers through the entire exhibit hoping that I (I mean . . . Alfred) would make it off the ship. Being part of the crew in 3rd class, I must admit that I wasn’t hopeful. They always say, “Women and children first” and Alfred just didn’t fit either category. And he was crew. He also didn’t have a lot of money and Titanic was full of passengers who, quite honestly, had the means to “buy” their way off the ship. See, the lifeboats were only equipped to accomodate about half the passengers. And, making matters even worse, the crew hadn’t been versed in an evacuation plan. This truly had “disaster” written all over it and I was fearful that Alfred was going to get left behind.
But he didn’t. Alfred Pugh made it into a lifeboat and survived the Titanic. The ship hit an iceberg at 11:40pm and sank two hours and 40 minutes later. Yes. A ship that took two full years to build took a mere two and half hours to split in half and sink.
Titanic is a powerful story and a powerful exhibit. I actually found myself crying inside it. Sure, James Cameron’s movie recreated the tragedy and brought it to life on the big screen, but the Titanic exhibit brings the passengers to life. It brings their stories to life. The tragedy to life and, ultimately, death.
For instance, in one area of the exhibit you can actually stand on the Titanic’s sloping decks. And you can experience what those clinging to life experienced. Look at this photo.
I can tell you, after having stood on all three, that trying to hang on for dear life would have been harrowing. My calves were burning after a couple of seconds on those platforms. I can’t imagine being in that position any longer than I was. Those who were there, on that fateful night in 1912, knew that if they slipped, they fell to their deaths.
Look at this photo . . .
At Titanic, you can also sit inside a life boat and read the stories about the folks who also sat in those seats. There they were . . . in the dark of night . . . scared, shaken, freezing, terrified and, in some cases, alone. I sat in the seat of my lifeboat and truly reflected on how fragile our lives are.
So, today, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, the Academy-Award winning Titanic gets re-released to theatres in 3D. And, I am going. Having walked through Titanic, studied the ship and its history, and heard the stories from its ghosts, I am hooked. I may hit the Malco Cinema 16 and cheer for Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet . . . but I will really be rooting for Alfred Pugh. I won’t see him on the screen, but I know he’ll be there. And, thankfully, I know he’ll make it. He will survive Titanic.
For complete showtimes for Titanic 3D at the Malco Cinema 16, CLICK HERE!
And, I highly recommend Titanic Pigeon Forge! The next time you journey to the Smoky Mountains, take some time to head out to sea on the maiden voyage of the majestic Titanic! You can make your reservations online at TitanicPigeonForge.com!