705 paralyzed women, children, and men sat in stone silence as the Carpathia plowed toward New York. Frozen in their minds were scenes of that gruesome night. The music of the band, “Nearer My God to Thee,” still wafted across the placid waters and through their heads. They replayed the episode where the lights of the Titanic flickered and then went out. They heard the horrendous crash of the ship’s contents flying toward the submerged bow as the giant stern rose out of the water. They saw the forward funnel break and fall. They heard the terrible grinding as the plates buckled and then tore in two. Then they saw the stern rise like a warlock in the night, hover for a moment and disappear into darkness.
After the ship went down the real horror began. Over 1500 friends and fellow passengers rode that crippled ocean liner into the 28 degree water. Fifteen hundred voices cried out in agony for help. But those in the lifeboats, paralyzed with fear, turned their backs and rowed away.
Of the all the lifeboats launched that night only one, lifeboat number four, returned to pick up additional survivors. Less than ten of the 1522 people who went into the water were rescued. When the Carpathia plucked the lifeboats from the ocean they discovered that most were less than two thirds full. The lifeboat capacity on the Titanic was 1178. Only 705 people were in them. That meant that 475 more people could have been saved!
I don’t pretend to understand the powerful dynamics working on a person’s mind in a situation like that. And I am not judging those survivors for their behavior. I am not even saying I would have done differently. I am only hoping I would. Would I have the courage to turn my boat around and row toward the dying?
Maybe I can answer that question by examining my life today. It seems to me the principle carries over. After all, isn’t church a sort of lifeboat? And aren’t we a kind of survivor? Don’t we have the same choice of those lifeboat occupants 104 years ago? We can either be content to survive, or we can risk becoming a rescuer. We can either row away from the dying or toward them.
I want to live with the courage to row my boat toward the cries of the desperate, and pull in as many as I can. And if I get swamped or soaked in the process I think the result will have been worth the effort. I hope you will join me.