Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rainy Days and Museums

 I'm once again sitting outside on our screened-in porch. It is peaceful, in spite of the loud rain and thunder I am hearing. I used to hate rain. It meant I couldn't go outside, and my mother was so paranoid about having electricity on during a storm that I often wasn't allowed to bathe or even watch television until the storm subsided. But I've come to love rain. It's very cleansing. Even the sound of it invokes images of washing away sadness and negativity, watering the seeds of hope and life within. As long as I'm not driving in it, I've become very appreciative of rain. We were planning on going into Gatlinburg tonight for some shopping, but if this rain stops us from going, I'm okay with that. I really am starting to feel more balanced.

Today we visited one of Pigeon Forge's newest attractions, the Titanic Museum. It's one of the largest in the world, and holds not only antiques recovered from the wreckage, but photos of victims, survivors, their families, newspaper articles, and the history around the making - and sinking - of the Titanic. If anyone is ever in Tennessee, I definitely recommend it. It was a very somber experience for me, almost on par with the time I visited the Holocaust Museum, and heard a Holocaust survivor speak in a Raleigh, NC, synagogue with my high school English class.

To catch a glimpse of the passengers' lives and what they went through really affected me. Seeing handwritten letters and postcards that were written by passengers just prior to boarding, telling their families how they would be seeing them soon, I wondered what was going through their heads as they realized they would not be seeing their families alive. What could have possibly gone through their heads? There was an exhibit telling the story of a 47-year old woman offering her space in a life raft to a young cabin boy, stating that she had lived her life, and it was his turn. He subsequently placed her in the boat and stayed behind on the ship. Upon entering the museum, you are given a "boarding pass", a ticket with the story of an actual passenger. The one I received  was that of a Daniel Marvin, I believe(I don't have it with me right this moment), a 19year old newlywed who was returning from his honeymoon with his wife. He guided her onto a lifeboat and stayed behind himself, saying his last goodbyes.  There were photo albums and jewelry, donated to the museum by various historians, historical societies, and descendants of passengers. The only thing I didn't really like was the gift shop had some things within that I felt were a little disrespectful. And they had this woman who took a picture, similar to some other attractions - where they take your picture, put it against a background showcasing whatever the attraction was about, and then you could buy it. I thought those were a little bit irreverent of the people who suffered on the ship, and their surviving relatives, but I digress.

I think there were two exhibits that just really struck me. I was already in a deep, somber mood by what I had already seen, but what almost brought me to tears was the exhibit that contained actual pictures of sailors on the McKay-Bennet, the ship charged with searching for bodies in the following weeks of the sinking. These pictures were actual pictures of an embalmed body, and sailors pulling bodies out of the water. To have seen that firsthand, I can't even imagine.

The second exhibit was this very cold room that was intended to show the visitor what it was actually like on the deck on the night the Titanic hit the iceberg. It was dark, with lights in the ceiling portraying stars. There was a large slab of ice on the wall that you could touch to feel what the ice would have felt like. The room was at the temperature that it would have been on that April night. There was a stream of saltwater that was kept at the temperature of the water of that night(about 28degrees), so that you could feel just how cold the water actually would've been to the people as they fell into the water. My hand felt tingly and had that "pins and needles" feeling in it after just a few seconds in the water. Anyone who actually survived the actual sinking was in the water for four hours, the length of time it took for the Carpathia to reach the site. A display, and a tour guide, explained the symptoms of hypothermia. Most of the people in the water would have been dead within 40 minutes of going in the water.

Maybe it's my own empathic nature. Maybe I've become even more connected to previous generations, since my practice of Druidry includes the honoring of my spiritual and physical ancestors. Or maybe I feel a connection because of my own draw to the sea. But somehow, this museum experience affected me far more than any other I've been to, outside the aforementioned Holocaust Museum. And I think I will end this entry with that. Because I can't even begin to put into words the depth of what this museum experience brought to me.

1 comment:

JeniMac said...

My parents and brother have been there twice this summer and said exactly the same thing about the "pins and needles" with the water exhibit. I got shivers just hearing about it. Me and Ty wanted to go when we were over there on vacation but we couldn't afford it. Hopefully we'll get there next time around. :)