To tell the story of the Titanic it seems we always have to begin with the present, not the past as you might imagine. It is a thing that haunts many of us, not in a bad way, mournful and aching in the memory of loved ones lost as it must be for the families of the survivors. But for us that were not there, did not experience the event it is the telling and re-telling of the stories about the people who were that helps to keep the memory of that ship, her passengers and crew alive for us today. Mara Menges is one of those people who is telling a story and that is where this story of the Titanic begins.
Mara, whose father who was a big Titanic enthusiast, bought the ship from it’s original builder owner, Morphius Barbosa now under the name Reborn Wingtips in SL. She had been the manager but when the ship came up for sale she saw an opportunity to combine her love of music and her love of the history of The RMS Titanic, called the Ship of Dreams, into one venue that she could involve herself in completely.
On the day I went to interview Mara, and on the tour we began to take she started to tell me about the ship. “As with the RL Titanic, the SL Titanic has many interesting facets. All the textures through out the ship are the same ones used on the RL Titanic. The fabrication of the SL Titanic had to be constrained of course but the builder made attempts to re-create the effect. For example the engine room in the RL Titanic ran the entire length of the ship, but in SL only a small portion was used to display what the gigantic engines looked like.” Most days this is not visible; Mara shuts it down, turns off all the scripts because the builder put so many in the engine room display that it becomes impossible for a large group of people to dance and enjoy the other aspects of the ship of dreams.
Our conversation drifted to the memorial Mara erected off the ship that lists all those who perished. Mara told me that while manager she had never met any relatives of the survivors, after she bought the Titanic she encountered the great grandson of Captain James Smith and decided to put up the memorial. It was then she discovered that many of those who were lingering at the memorial were relatives of witnesses or survivors.
There are many things you will want to explore aboard the Titanic and you should go. The Titanic in SL is one of the great remaining builds from the old days. But for Mara and myself there was a melancholy that overhung our tour. I went to visit her ship on Sept 10th , 2011 and there was the anniversary of another tragedy in the news.
At this point it became impossible for us not to make comparisons.
“The bow sank lower and lower into the water….At 2:05 a.m. the last lifeboat left the ship, leaving more than fifteen hundred people on Titanic’s decks….At 2:20 a.m. April 15, 1912 the last of Titanic slipped beneath the waves leaving over fifteen hundred people stranded in the icy water. …seventeen hundred froze to death.”
Ninety nine years ago seventeen hundred people were snatched away, creating a vacuum in the lives of the survivors, the witnesses. On September 11, 2001 a similar thing happened. Of course the circumstances are different and many more perished on 9/11 but the vacuum effect is the same. The witnessing of these events, that there were so many people watching so many people die.
Mara put it like this, “What is the same is that the people that were in the towers and the people in the Titanic were trapped. And the witnesses were at the same moment trapped, trapped in their responsibility to watch and are now trapped with the memories. They will never forget.”
The expression, “Where were you when…” could have been just as relevant an expression then as it has became for this generation. These were galvanizing events. In RL and SL there are memorials for the 9/11 victims and the victims of the Titanic.
That ship disappearing below the dark water of the North Atlantic so many years ago touched the lives of many and that the memories of those lost can be appreciated at the Titanic Memorial is due completely to the sensitivity of Mara Menges.
And that is why Mara and her desire to preserve this legend in SL is so important. Where else could this Ship of Dreams be realized in such detail and with such loving expression for what it once was. As the web site says, “Come and live a dream with us on the Ship of Dreams, dance in the elegant ballroom, walk down the magnificent grand stair case, run on up to the Cafe’ Parisien and have tea with a friend, or stand on the bridge and imagine what it would be like to be Captain. Within Second Life you are only limited by your imagination. Come join us on the Ship of Dreams, as she floats upon an ocean of memories… “
It was not my intention to draw these two events together because one has nothing to do with the other. It is only from the perspective of those that witness tragedy, that there were so many who watched and because there are and were we have their stories to tell. This was to be a story about one of the story tellers, Mara Menges, owner of The RMS Titanic in Second Life.