Titanic relic


Pier 54,  April 21, 2012 – exactly one hundred years after the sinking of the Titanic.

Arriving by bus in New York City, the tour guide said, “This is Hudson River Park.”

Looking through the window, I saw a sign: Chelsea Piers.

Chelsea Piers – why does that sound so familiar?

The words buffered around my brain for a second or two, retrieving the information: Chelsea Piers is where the old old ocean liners docked. 

Pier 54 is where the Titanic survivors were delivered by the Carpathia – hey, that’s exactly a hundred years ago this week!

I scrambled for my phone and opened the camera.

I took the shot just as we passed.

There is no magnificent dock anymore, only a corroding steel arch standing like a neglected, tired sentinel as people go about their daily lives. It’s hard to imagine this unremarkable structure as a portal to luxury, to adventure, to the stuff dreams were made of over a century ago.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in the chapter entitled “The Dark Island”:

“Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams  – dreams, do you understand – come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.”

In other words, nightmares.

I tried to envision the crowd, the men in overcoats, the women in long dresses, everyone wearing hats, as the Titanic survivors disembarked on April 18, 1912. It was night. For a fleeting second, I could sense the darkness, the shattered dreams, the unspeakable horror of watching that massive, beautiful ship break apart in the icy sea, taking so many passengers with her to a deep, watery grave. The nightmare was real; it would never leave the survivors.

In an instant, the darkness vanished, my glimpse of long ago ended. I blinked in the broad daylight. As my bus sailed on, I studied the photo. A bright light shines in the very center of the arch, which once bore the words White Star. I cannot tell if my camera was poised just right to reflect a flash in the window, to be captured perfectly in the middle of that haunting remnant, or if it is a phenomenon of light from some other source; nevertheless it shines like the sun over this relic of ruin, like day following night, driving the nightmares, the ghosts, away, hallowing this entrance to another time.




7 thoughts on “Titanic relic

  1. It is fascinating to me how some moments will always be frozen in time. I am haunted by the stories of the Titanic, though it happened so far before my life. I think the compassion and sense of humanity is most keen when we think about the tragedy of others. I loved your post. That past pops up in the smallest of moments and brings us a sense of connection that is hard to explain. Thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Paula! Kids are haunted by the Titanic as well – they generate endless questions and never tire of reading about it, so it’s a great motivator. Frozen in time is such an apt phrase, and yes – the haunting spell it casts over us is mystical, will always be so. I am so glad you enjoyed the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Many of my students have a fascination about the Titanic. I taught 4th grade on the 100th anniversary of the disaster, and I taught this big unit. I gave them all a passport with the name of someone on the ship. They had to research to see if they survived or not. It was one of the best units I have ever taught. This year many students chose the Titanic as the setting to their historical narrative. Your picture is quite captivating. Happy writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your writing today made me feel almost as though I was there with you experiencing this dark piece of history firsthand. The Titanic is such a fascinating piece of history. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Titanic will always mesmerize us – a very dark piece of history, indeed. Thanks for your reply and I am delighted that you felt as if you were experiencing the moment!


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