Adriana Zoder: Titanic Museum offers educational, sad look at history

Nov. 02, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

This year, my children have become aware of the concept of death. Our cat has killed enough mice and birds and we have seen enough road kill, I suppose. Then, we stumbled upon the story of the Lusitania on one of our many trips to the library.

The Lusitania was a British ocean liner torpedoed and sunk by German submarines in 1915. About 1,200 people lost their lives. The incident became one of the reasons the United States entered World War I two years later.

The book talks about the hymn that helped people deal with the tragic loss of lives back then, “In the Sweet By and By.” I sang it to the children and they kept asking for it. Now we know it by heart and it has become one of our favorites.

Big, luxurious ship, tragic loss of lives, a hymn to soothe and comfort – “Nearer My God to Thee” in this case – I could not help but think of the Titanic. So I decided to take the children to the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge.

As soon as I opened my car door in the parking lot and heard the music, I teared up. Not the best of beginnings. I focused on zipping up the kids’ jackets and blinked back the tears.

The attendant handed us our aliases – cards with a real passenger’s name, age and story. She gave me – wait for it – Molly the Unsinkable. That was a relief, but what about the children’s fates? We would go through the museum and find out at the end, on the wall of remembrance.

We started out well, listening to the audio tour on our individual headsets. We pushed buttons to turn on lights and see and listen to more details about this tragic ship. Screens with animation of how the ship broke in two and sank tell the story better than words. I liked the map showing the voyage across the Atlantic. By the way, the crew in their uniforms created a great atmosphere.

We shoveled coals into the furnace. We touched water and ice at 28F – the way it was that night. We stood on three different small decks at 12, 30 and 45 degree angles each. All too real.

In the “below age 10” area, my son tried to avoid the iceberg in 37 seconds. An impossible task, given the size of the ship. My daughter solved a 3D puzzle with teddy bears in sailor suits.

We found out how many dogs were on the Titanic and how many survived, what RMS stands for, and which survivor took all the pictures we have today of the gorgeous ship.

In the “Titanic, The Movie” room, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s drowning scene costumes looked surreal. Very clean and dry, too.

I feel like we learned and experienced a lot. Even so, we skipped many details because of the kids’ short attention span. A proper tour takes two hours. We finished in about forty-five minutes.

That’s why we did not look up their fate at the wall of remembrance. A kind crew member helped us read about it quickly in the gift shop from a book they sell. Whew! They both made it out alive.

For the next four days, my children could not stop talking about the Titanic. And death. I don’t regret taking them there but – fair warning – it’s not for the faint of heart.

Adriana Zoder, a Gatlinburg resident, is a writer and homeschooling mom. She and her husband have two children. She maintains the blog