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Nearly 100 years ago, the Titanic set sail on its ill-fated maiden voyage. Readers discussed why this story resonates through history.
Otasawian: "I am a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The place where 150 of the victims are buried and the location of a museum dedicated to the tragedy. The Titanic disaster is an important part of Halifax and Nova Scotia folklore. I believe that the fascination of the Titanic disaster has to do with the fact that it has become a metaphor for instances when people mistakenly believe they have become invincible. Too often, individuals, corporations, political parties, sports teams and nations, etc., who have become powerful in their own right begin to believe that they are so strong they cannot suffer defeat. They begin to believe that they are 'too big to fail' and once this happens reality deals them a crippling blow. The sinking of the Titanic and the folklore/legend surrounding the Titanic disaster provide a reminder that no one or anything is invincible. All powerful individuals and groups are subject to fail due to the human characteristics of hubris and complacency that tend to creep into our minds when we believe that things are going well."
Quincy Brown: "Speaking of Halifax, I have been to that cemetery, that is shaped like a ship with the headstones. I found it interesting that the cemetery ship is pointing exactly in the same direction as the sunken Titanic. I find it interesting just how many parallels before the sailing, the sinking, and the aftermath has in life lessons. It's even more ironic that the word Titanic can even be used as a verb now. I have heard sailors talk about the Titanic. Naming your boat after Neptune's mortal enemy, the Titans, proudly exclaiming that God could not sink this boat, and have enough arrogance to try to stand before life and say nothing can stop you. There was no way this ship could have made it, yet so many who do the same sort of things even today, like running from the police, hurting people, doing bad things, think they are somehow above the law, above the people, and yet they all suffer a bad fate eventually. Life lessons time and time again in Titanic proportions."
mikeymike47: "Titanic fascinates because of the hubris: the sinking of the unsinkable ship on its maiden voyage."
AndreaMilnes: "Titanic truly did play out from its conception and building to the inquiry afterwards perfectly like a drama. Heroes, villains, the unstoppable strength of nature, rich characters, poor characters, it really has the lot of it. You have Capt. Rostrom of the Carpathia who literally didn't have his feet out of bed yet when he ordered a daring dash through the ice to come rescue survivors, the electrical engineers who kept the power going even after they had been dismissed from their stations, and a large number of men who stuck to the social norm of gentlemanly conduct even in the face of death. These are all stories that make us wonder if we ourselves could be brave and selfless enough to do the same. 9/11 has a similar cast of characters, set in a similar era of positivity and progress, it even has similar perfect weather. Pretty much no other disasters in history share these traits."
For others, it symbolizes a technical failure.
Ron Thomas: "It is fascinating because the sinking was 'totally avoidable,' the loss of life was significant and the ship lacked requisite lifeboats to adequately cover the crew and passengers. If the captain of the ship had simply pulled up for the night like all other ships in the area due to 'bergs, instead of sailing 'full steam ahead' in the dark of night with a full moon, 'bergs looming, then there wouldn't be a story. In addition, the failure of the California to assist after picking up the distress call is alarming, for they were the closest ship to the tragedy. Don't care about the social drama on board the Titanic, but the sinking and the non-rescue by the California just boggles the mind."
But some said the fascination is overdone.
duvallone: "People are fascinated by the glamor of the people and the ship. If it had been a large old boat, filled with minorities, drop-outs and bums, hardly likely its story would be fascinating to anyone. Is that racism, or being bigoted or what? Cause whatever it is, we are guilty. I mean if Whitney Houston dies in her tub of an overdose, the news is all over it. If I did, hardly likely it would make a ripple. So, whether people admit to it or not, they are all glamour-conscious."
There were class distinctions.
coy4one: "During the time of the Titanic tragedy, there was a huge class difference in the developed world, but especially in American and the UK. Just like our current times, back in 1912 the classes were the very wealthy, and the poor. There was no middle class to speak of. The cause of the Titanic's sinking, although hitting an iceberg, was due to the arrogance of the ship's wealthy owners. It was more important to be seen as a marvel of success than to caution on the side of safety. After the Titanic sank and word got out about the wealthy being able to get into lifeboats first, leaving the poorer second and third class passengers to die, there was an outrage throughout the USA and UK. The wealthy men who went down with the ship, i.e. Astor, and the others, were eventually considered to be heroes for their unselfish courage. I would hope that if a disaster were to happen on this scale today, the wealthy would be like Mr. Astor."
For some, it's a story of plans falling through.
amac1959: "It's fascinating because man loves to believe he can conquer all and do anything he sets his mind to ... only to have his best laid plans sink (literally in the case of the Titanic) in the face of something greater than him that he can never tame or bend to his will ... nature."
Titanic leaves a legacy.
JWClifford: "We also must note some of the changes that came about afterward. The wireless went from a luxury component to a requirement on all ships and had to be manned 24-hours. No operator could close up for the night, as happened on the Californian, the ship that was known to be close to Titanic (whether it would have made it to the scene in time is debatable). Also, lifeboat requirements were changed to ensure that everyone on board could be guaranteed a space in one. Evacuation/muster drills became mandatory (none were held on the Titanic, as was noted by one survivor). Now it is likely that all ships will be required to have drills before they leave ports, after new passengers embark. The International Ice Patrol was also established to assist in tracking icebergs, especially since the iceberg that the Titanic struck was a so-called "black" or "blue" iceberg: Its composition was of ice that had been underwater, but had shifted during reshaping (as pieces melt or break off), and was more difficult to see. We know that nothing can completely prevent people from dying at sea, but it is hoped that sea travel is safer today."
But there are other ships.
Kerry Michael Berger: "Frankly, from a purely historical and great fictional potential, the story of the Lusitania is far more interesting than the Titanic, since the ship was sunk by a German U-boat. You could build a novel on a love story, the U-boat captain's log, as well as the captain of the Lusitania and have a real thriller. Yet, folks in Hollywood seem to have a lack of imagination and rather would spend money on remakes of remakes, like killing a dead horse twice."
Some alluded to other disasters.
por1: "If it wasnt for the media putting this story in our face all the time there would be no fascination with it."
vintage274: "I would agree with you if this were a recent event, but it happened 100 years ago, and the fascination has been evident since the beginning. Modern media are a recent occurrence. If you include books (which have documented tragedies since the beginning of written language) as media, then I guess you have an argument. But books don't go "putting this story in our face all the time." People CHOOSE to read. And hundreds of books were written about this disaster before the documentaries of the Titanic's discovery in the Atlantic, before CNN and other TV news outlets, before the recent movie (there was a movie made in the '40s as well), before cable TV and its vast choices. The article makes a reasoned argument. For San Franciscans, the Great Earthquake is still a topic of vast discussion and exploration because the individual stories speak to local families and their histories. There is endless fascination as well with the Loma Prieta quake of the 1980s because it is particularly humanized for the people of this area. Every San Franciscan can tell you where he was and relate a personalized tale. The Titanic disaster speaks to individual choices in the face of great tragedy and is thus embedded in our consciousness."
September 11 and Pearl Harbor also got mentions.
KALOWG: "I dare say Pearl Harbor also meets the criteria for what was described above."
coy4one: "Pearl Harbor, being a military tragedy, will most likely always be remembered as 'the Titanic' of war, of which there are only a few like it. There are similarities that exist between Pearl Harbor and the Titanic. (Over-confident military leaders who thought that the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor was invincible, so much that they ignored all the early warnings of the arriving Japanese.) But once the Japanese attack began, Pearl Harbor becomes a heroic story of its own and the number of heroes, in the thousands, sets it far apart of almost any military disaster in history."
Challenger made an imprint on many readers.
magicman27: "The Titanic is remembered for a combination of death, arrogance, class warfare and mother nature."
JWClifford: "The story of the Titanic was also used as a comparison in 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost: again, human arrogance and thoughts of technology making us fairly invincible led to a tragedy that many of us vividly remember."
This reader took a political interpretation.
bloodawg: "For the same reason, the GOP primary is fascinating because as badly as they want to change course they just can't."
What about ...
Stephanie Parry: "How about the Johnstown, PA, flood in 1889?"
And of course, some couldn't resist a joke.
narthex: "Some of you people are jerks. DiCaprio lost his life on this ship! Show a little respect."
woutergman: "He lost his life in the water, but not in or around the ship."
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Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.