Friday, May 14, 2010

In Perspecitive - The Legacy Of a Sinking Ship

By Rodney Hays

I got the chance to sit down and watch the most epic movie of the 20th century this past weekend. Of course, I'm talking about "Dumb and Dumber."

Just kidding. Everyone knows that "Dumb and Dumber" is the most epic movie of all time, not just the 20th century.

Actually, the movie I watched was James Cameron's "Titanic."

For those two or three people who haven't seen it, let me give you a brief synopsis of the movie.

The movie is about the discovery of a large ship that sank off the coast of Cancun while Christopher Columbus was looking for a new Starbucks franchise.
Another joke.

Seriously, the movie is about a large ship called the Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage.

The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Ioan Gruffudd as 5th Officer Harold Lowe.

It opens with a crew looking at the remains of the giant ship when it discovers a group of artifacts. The artifacts are shown on TV where they are seen by an elderly Rose, who is played by Rush Limbaugh.

Rose boards the exploration boat and begins telling the crew the story of the fateful voyage.

The rest of the movie is about Rose, who is about to marry a rich man and live a life of luxury, comfort and complete emptiness and Jack, who is about to move back to America to open a Starbucks franchise.

[Spoiler Alert: I'm about to tell how the movie ends, so if you don't know that the ship sinks and that Jack dies, you probably want to stop reading at this point.]

Over a four-day period, as the boat makes its way towards New York City, Jack and Rose fall in love. Rose wants to leave her fiance and Jack wants to leave third class.

As the boat begins to sink, Jack tries his best to keep him and Rose alive while they wait for rescuers to arrive.

In the end, the rescuers arrive too late and Jack dies. Rose, however, lives to tell the story to generations and to James Cameron.

As I watched the movie, or at least the highlights -- I slept through most of the boring parts -- I began to wonder about the guys who actually built the Titanic.

In the movie, the builders and designers are portrayed as boobs that cared more about grabbing newspaper headlines than they did about the people on board the large ship.

I began to think about those guys in real life. What did they do? Who were they? Did they really care about nothing else?

So, I did what any investigative reporter would do: I called 60 Minutes.

No I didn't. I wanted to do the research on the Titanic myself. So, I pulled out my trusty laptop and clicked on the Internet -- The Source of All Truth. I went right to my favorite search engine -- which I cannot name in this column -- and googled, "Titanic builders."

What I discovered was the name of the company that built the massive floating resort.
The company that oversaw the construction of the ship was Ireland's Harland and Wolff. The designers were Lord William Pirrie and Thomas Andrews.

More than 3,000 men began work on the construction, which began in 1909 and was completed in 1912. Total cost for construction was $7.5 million.
On its maiden voyage, it set sail from Southhampton, England bound for New York City on April 10, 1912.

On April 14, 1912, something went horribly wrong and the ship hit an iceberg and the iceberg won.

In the end, the ship sank and 1,517 people lost their lives in the icy water of the Northern Atlantic. Only 706 people survived the tragedy.

What a horrible legacy.

But I started thinking again (a dangerous thought, I know) and I wondered, "if the Titanic wouldn't have sunk, would we know about it today?"

Probably not.

What many people probably don't know is the Titanic actually had two sister ships: the RMS Olympic and the HMHS Britannic.

The Olympic was about the same size as the Titanic and set sail about two years earlier.

The Britannic was initially launched in 1914, but in 1915 was commissioned as a hospital ship to be used by the English during World War I. In 1916, the Britannic struck a German mine and also sank.

The Olympic was the only ship of the three to actually do what it was designed to do: carry passengers to from England to New York City. However, it was sold for scrap in 1935.

Two large boats that nobody knows about.

The legacy of Harland and Wolff and Lord William Pirrie and Thomas Andrews is the Titanic, a ship that sank in the middle of the ocean on its maiden voyage.
And that research started me thinking one last time. I thought, I want my legacy to last but not because of something bad that happens.

I want to leave a legacy that lasts through the people I touch every day. That should be everyone's goal I guess. We should want to leave behind something positive for the next generation.

I hope I have that opportunity. I'm trying, Lord knows. But in the end, how will I be remembered?

I hope I'm not remembered like Pirrie or Andrews or Ioan Gruffudd or as 5th Officer Harold Lowe or, God forbid, Rush Limbaugh.

To read more of Rodney Hays' humor, check out his blog at Follow him on Twitter at Become his friend on Facebook.

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