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.