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Reader Voices: What 9/11 taught me about the Titanic tragedy

By Anita Stansfield

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, April 2 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

A drawing of the Titanic from an original hand written account of the disaster by Laura Marie Cribb is shown at a press preview at Christie's in New York, Friday June 22, 2007. Eighteen lots relating to the ill-fated ship R.M.S. Titanic were to be offered at a Christie's sale on June 28, 2007.

Bebeto Matthews, Associated Press

I was surprised when the opportunity came up for me to write a novel that included the topic of the sinking of the Titanic. But I was even more surprised by what I learned through the undertaking of researching such an event.

With the 100-year anniversary of the sinking this month, the event is once again on our minds. We all learned the basics about the Titanic sinking in school and many of us have seen the Oscar-winning film.

Some of us have more of a fascination with the event than others. We’ve all heard the metaphors about the Titanic. It symbolized the pride of an overly ambitious time, when we were beginning to get a little too confident in believing we could build anything, do anything, go anywhere and nothing could stop us.

A lot of those symptoms still exist with mankind. We don’t have to look very far to see evidence of that. So, what are we going to do about it?

As I read and studied and watched everything I could find on the Titanic, I was overcome with a feeling that was eerily familiar. Eventually I was able to identify that feeling; it had assaulted me on Sept. 11, 2001.

The events of that horrible day in modern history are the Titanic of our time. Since no one living can actually remember the day the Titanic was swallowed by the mighty Atlantic, we have to rely on recorded history to make the comparison. And history does indeed repeat itself.

The circumstances of the two events have very little in common beyond the massive loss of life and the tremendous impact that it had on those who lived to tell the tale. The media was different back then, but it’s not difficult to imagine how people must have surely remembered exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. The largest and supposedly safest ship in the world had met an unthinkable demise.

The Titanic, like Sept. 11, reminds us as human beings that we are vulnerable, that life — or death — can come at you as fast as you can plow into an iceberg or fall from the sky on a hijacked airliner.

As I see it, the true lesson from both of these events is the constant need for self-evaluation. Tragedy can be global, or it can be very personal. Either way, the emotional impact is the same. And once tragedy strikes, we are struck with the power to choose. Do we allow it to make us stronger, or do we let it destroy us? Do we move forward with better priorities, or do we revert back to our blindness of ignoring the truly important things in life?

As a human race we should be ever aware of the source of our lives and the goodness that exists in them. We should know at the beginning of each seemingly normal day that, no matter what might happen, we can face the future with no regrets.

There is so little in this world that we as individuals have control over. But if I learned anything from Titanic, it’s that we should find joy in every day, and not fuss and fret over the icebergs that might be headed our way. Erma Bombeck said it well. “Seize the moment ... I got to thinking one day about all those women on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to cut back.”

Sure, life is more complicated than that. But at the heart of what’s really important, is not really so complicated.

Anita Stansfield is a best-selling author and her new book is "Passage on the Titanic." Her website is www.anitastansfield.blogspot.com

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