April 15, 1912.
April 15, 1997.
Both days hold special meaning for me. Today's blog is broken into two very distinct events that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I'll start with the earlier of the two.
On April 14, 1912, late at night, the largest ocean-going vessel ever constructed by the hands of man struck an iceberg. The ship, as you well know, was called the Titanic. You know the whole story by now. It hit an iceberg, faltered and eventually succumbed to the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. It was deemed "unsinkable". It was a modern marvel. It was the height of luxury at the time. A first-class stateroom was priced somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000. By today's standards, it equates to somewhere around $50K. *low whistle* Dang. That's fancy.
I can't really tell you why I hold such a strong fascination for the Titanic. If there's a documentary-style show on The Discovery Channel or TLC, I'm almost guaranteed to drop what I'm doing and sit down and watch it. Even if I've seen it before and even if there's only five minutes left in the program. It just fascinates me.
Upon her discovery in 1985, I was only 10. I can remember hearing about it on the news and on the radio at the time. Something someone said must have captivated my imagination at the time because it just lit something inside of me. About a month later I can remember being at one of my friend's houses and swimming. We decided to "play" Titanic. We took all the pool furniture and threw it in the pool and then had our own little "shipwreck". We had a hard time getting that cast iron furniture out of the deep end, by the way.
Back in November 2006, I had what I consider to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit a traveling exhibit of artifacts that had been salvaged from the wreck site. It was tastefully done, in my opinion. There were dishes. There were musical instruments. There were very personal artifacts among the relics. Three portions of the display brought me to tears. Truly. (I was pregnant at the time so you can chalk it up to hormones if you like, but I believe I'd react the same way if I saw them this very moment.) The first thing at the very beginning of the exhibit is the bell. THE bell. It was suspended over a small circle of sand, out of reach of nerds like myself. The room was dimly lit and the only thing in the room was the bell. I turned the corner and saw the bell and began sucking my breath in as if I were having an asthma attack. I felt the tears well up and knew it was going to be an emotional journey. Later, a small glass case displayed three bejeweled chokers. One was a small, half-inch wide piece of silk ribbon which had three small diamond slides across it. Seeing that brought on full tears and sniffles. That choker necklace belonged to somebody. Someone packed that in their belongings. Was it a young girl? Perhaps a first-class debutante? Was it a second-class mother and this was among her finer possessions? Only God knows. Seeing relics such as that really bring the human element into the picture and remind you that all these things belonged to living, breathing, REAL people who were all important to somebody else.
My last tear-jerker moment was towards the end of the exhibit. There, in a large room, was a piece of the hull of the once-mighty Titanic. It was resting in sand, just like it did for all those years before discovery. It was suspended by cables to keep it upright. It was a large portion. The nerd in me knew that I positively HAD to touch it. I went around to the back side of the piece and leaned over as far as I could. Crap. I was three inches shy of touching history. I gave a loud "PSST!!!" to my mom and told her to hold my arm so I could lean in far enough. She obliged and I leaned over and felt electrified as soon as I made contact. The piece of history that excites me most was now a part of me, in a way. After running afoul of the law, I made my way around the the front of the piece and saw that there was a smaller piece trapped in a box with a hole in the top of it and it was perfectly legal to touch that piece. *insert sheepish grin here*
Over the years, I've become more enthralled with the human aspect of the whole ordeal. As I mentioned earlier, there were living, breathing people aboard this ship and they all mattered to someone. They were fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, nannies, maids, manservants, butlers, etc. Each person was unique and special.
Out of the 2,228 on board, only 705 survived. Many of them were women and children. 1,523 died. One thousand...five hundred...twenty three. That's about half as many as the number who perished in the WTC attacks on 9/11/01. At the time, it was as big a tragedy as 9/11 is to us today. Take a moment today and remember those who died on this day 98 years ago. Some drowned. Some froze to death from the frigid, 38ºF water temperature.
Today matters to me. Try to not make light of a tragedy, even if it was nearly 100 years ago.
Now, the latter.
April 15, 1997.
I sat in Dr. Bordoni's office and waited for my name to be called. I was put into a recliner and had a blanket over my legs to stay warm because they had to keep that room cold to minimize germs. This day was to be my first of many chemotherapy treatments. I was fine as they drew my labs and got me prepped. I was fine as they inserted my IV. I was fine as they went down a laundry list of things I could expect over the coming days. However, I came unglued (fell apart, broke down sobbing, freaked out for all my non-Southern readers) when the nurse started the machine and I saw the poison slowly creep down the plastic tubing that led to my arm. I saw that clear, potent elixir reach my arm and I positively lost. my. marbles. "OhmywordIamgettingchemo!" kept running through my head, along with, "This is really real. I have cancer." I broke down and started calling, quite loudly I might add, for my "mommy". Now, I hadn't called her mommy since I was about 12 or 13 and at the time I was 22 and had been recently married. I told the nurse that she needed to get my mommy NOW. I think she heard me from the waiting room though and came to my side. She and my husband sat with me as I got the course of drugs. We colored in coloring books. We sat and waited. We sucked on Jolly Ranchers and Lemonheads. Finally, after nearly two hours, we were done. April 15, 1997 was the start of a long, yet miraculous, journey for me and my entire family. It affected different people in different ways. I'm just glad I'm here today to be able to share it with all of you.
April 15 will always be significant to me. Now you know why. I'm a nerd and I'm a survivor. But, best of all, I'm just me.