Titanic’s Belfast Museum: Some Thoughts on 9/11

100 years from now, how will be remember 9/11? Since that horrific day America has remain conflicted over how it happened, what it meant, and most importantly, where do we go from here? For some, the answers will evolve over decades. For others, the answers will never be found.

The world has faced similar tragedies before– The 1912 sinking of the Titanic is regarding as the first global disaster, as the newly invented telegraph was first used to announce to the world the horrendous calamity. At the time the event was unthinkable, beyond the catcalls of “unsinkable.” Quite simply, people DID NOT believe that it actually happened. It was– to use the word of the time– unprecedented. The scale of the disaster was beyond emotional acceptance; the loss of life, staggering. Nearly every ethnic nationality was represented in the death toll and it all occurred within the largest moving object ever created by the mind of man: Titanic.

Of course, 9/11 was no accident. But the World Trade Center, the tallest towers in the world, twin monuments to the ingenuity of 20th century man, was gone. Now less than two decades later, the magnificent 9/11 museum is finally in place, and ground zero remains a construction site. The wound is still that fresh.

But might there be a lesson here? Perhaps it can be found via the architects and engineers who conceived TITANIC BELFAST.

After ten decades of media and multi-media exploitation– the books, the films, the 3D recreations, the touring exhibits, and oh yes, the auctions of recovered artifacts– what could possibly be left to say? When did disaster morph into entertainment?

Happily there is one crucial element waiting to be explored: Humanity– The thousands of people (and the city) that built Titanic. Why not return home, return to its birthplace, and go back to where it all began and will always remain? The heart.

Architecturally TITANIC BELFAST resembles both the four corners of the ship itself (in actual height) as well as the imagined scale of the infamous iceberg. It’s a visual twist that foretells the attention to detail and design to come, elements crucial to the success of this venture. The facade juts out at angles of some 25 degrees with over 3,000 anodized sheets molded origami-like into complex designs, 2/3rds of which are completely unique, inventing varying light patterns at every angle. In a sense it reflects where the ship meets the sea; the sea meets and sky.

Visitors move through 10 clever exhibits beginning with “Boomtown Belfast”– where they meet the men who built the great ship– the names of each designer, their photos, personal information, even comments from friends about what they were like as people, the inventors humanized. In a fashion, this is like speaking with the parents of a lost child and discovering who that child was. No one else could ever tell this story.

The next gallery is perhaps the most inventive. Called the “Arrol Gantry and Shipyard Ride” it is an electronic dark ride that recreates the art of 19th century shipbuilding through the use of CGI animation and various special effects. This is not a cheesy Disney-inspired carnival ride, but more of a simulator experience that tastefully takes visitors through the more dangerous aspects of the ship building trade.

What follows are detailed exhibits covering the launch of the Titanic, fitting out the ship with in a million details of practicality and luxury, the maiden voyage, the sinking, the aftermath, and finally a review of the myths and legends concerning the event. This last exhibit is an exploration of the wreck and an oceanic center.

What is missing, most thankfully, are the original artifacts that have found their way into traveling museum collections and auctions alike. One explanation is the staggering cost of acquiring these items in an ever-escalating market. The other, however, is that TITANIC BELFAST is not about a cup and saucer. It’s not about a life preserver. It’s not about the button off a First Class Officer’s jacket. If this is what you’re looking for, Google the next Titanic touring show near you.

No. TITANIC BELFAST is a tribute to those that built and sailed on this iconic ship. It is a chronicler of the event and it’s aftermath… from 1912 to now. More than a single lifetime, with the emphasis on life.

It is not about an Iceberg. It is noted, but not dwelt upon. It melted away, unlike the memory of some 1,500 souls who sailed on the most futuristic ship of its time, unlike the thousands who built this astounding vessel. They live now at TITANIC BELFAST.

And here is the lesson learned: the memory of 9/11 cannot be of terror. Even now, a scant 15 years out from that day, the wound is still too painful. We are still much, much too close to the event to focus our perspectives. We may think we have, but we haven’t. It too was unprecedented, staggering– the event impossible to wrap our most modern minds around.

A telegraph announced a great tragedy to the world– Unbelievable. 9/11 unfolded on live television and repeated in an endless loop on another new invention, the internet. Incomprehensible.

So consider that it has taken the town of Belfast, the mother and father of Titanic herself, 100 years to absorb the event in this most magnificent and dignified way.

100 years from now, what will we make of 9/11? After millions have toured the museum, examined the artifacts, and with millions more re-experiencing the event through mass mediums we cannot imagine, what will there be left to say?

I pray that we think of those that built World Trade. Pray for those that lost their lives that day… In the towers… In those fated planes… At the Pentagon… In a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I pray that we cherish the resiliency of the human spirit that endured such a past of heartbreak, such a present of uncertainty, such a future filled with challenges unknown.

Another great monument once split the sky, inspired the world, then disappeared. Yet from this chaos we can glean reflection, we can seek an elemental calm. From water and wind, through fire and ice, we always endure.

In the distance we will always hear the mariner’s cry, “Sail on. Sail on.”

More Info: http://www.TitanicBelfast.com

 

By Duane Scott Cerny.  Copyright 2016

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