Since Lillian Asplund died in 2006, no one remembers the night the unthinkable happened. The grandest ship and largest moveable object in the world, the RMS Titanic, sunk. (Millvina Dean, the last Titanic survivor, died in 2009. She was 2 months old at the time of the disaster.)
Retired Thomson schoolteacher Kathie Mogish has attempted to create as authentic a program as she can to illustrate what it might have been like to have been aboard the Titanic that night. It’s a program that has evolved over nearly 25 years, fusing her fascination with the story with her love of teaching.
As guests step through the doors of Thomson First Baptist Church on April 14, they will step through time into a place that now exists only in imagination.
The date will be April 12, 1912. The place: Southampton, England. The occasion: the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.
Greeters at the church doors will welcome guests into Titanic: Voyage to Eternity.
The event will honor the 100th anniversary of the disaster, which occurred April 15, 1912, and raise money for the church’s youth.
Guests will nibble hors d’oeuvres until a bugler signals dinner, just as he would have if he were aboard the ship 100 years ago. They will dine as first-class guests once did, including a menu consisting of the Titanic’s recipe for Chicken Lyonnais.
A slideshow with more than 200 photographs enhanced by sounds and music will take guests through the events of that fateful, horrible night.
Each guest will receive an identity card with the name of a passenger and facts from their life.
At the end of the evening, guests will open their cards to find out whether they lived or died.
Mogish’s fascination with it all began one day in the 1950s.
Mogish was 7 years old and asked her mother if she could stay up to watch a dramatization of Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember.
She loved it and as she grew, she began reading whatever she could find on the subject. For a long time, there wasn’t much, she said.
“For a long time, after the sinking, there was a spate of books. I have four volumes from 1912. And then people forgot about it,” she said. “Then Walter Lord’s book sort of revived interest, but his book was one of very few.”
Mogish’s collection began in earnest about 30 years ago, when her niece and nephew gave her a 350:1 scale model of the ship.
She never completed it. Her friend, Frank Locklear, took it last summer to complete it. Locklear said that because the model was made before the Titanic’s ruins were found, there are factual inaccuracies that he is working to correct. He expects to complete the project in time to display it at the event.
Now Mogish’s collection includes books, DVDs, VHS tapes and CDs that fills one wall unit bookshelf in her study, surrounding a glass-encased paper replica of the ship that fills the center compartment. Walls leading to her study are lined with yellowed newspaper articles, photographs and more artwork.
Her bedroom walls are adorned with framed artwork depicting the ship.
Her favorite piece is a recast of a medal that was presented to Capt. Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia by Margaret “Molly” Brown and some of the other first-class survivors.
She also has autographs from some of the ship’s survivors.
Mogish finds their life stories almost as fascinating as the sinking itself.
“It stayed with a lot of people. (Some) lived perfectly normal lives,” she said.
Others, it seemed, could never escape it.
“I was reading something the other night. A survivor was saying she could still hear (what) she said was the most hideous sound you can imagine,” Mogish said. “She said it was worse than even as the ship was going down and everything was tearing loose.
For the briefest of moments there was absolute silence, and then she said the shrieking and cries began. She said she could just never get that out of her head.”
Mogish didn’t really consider sharing her collection with the community until one day in the 1970s, when she used the story as an example of irony for her language arts class. But none of her students had ever heard of the Titanic. They became enamored with the story as she shared it with them.
So she brought a few of her books to share with the class.
“(The presentation) started out with me just telling the story holding up the book so they could see the pictures,” she said.
As technology and her students’ interest in the story evolved, so did the presentation. Instead of holding up picture books, she presented a two-day slide show. One day, they sailed, the next day they sank.
A few years before she retired in 2001, she began assigning students the identity of a first-class passenger.
“It’s been a fun thing,” she said. “I have students I taught 25 years ago and they’ll say I remember I was – and they’ll say who they were.”
This year will likely be the last time she shares her collection with the community in this way. She said it’s becoming harder for her to pack up her collection to take it anywhere.
It continues to be a lesson in irony and how we become sure of ourselves when we ought not to, she said.
“It’s the quintessential Greek tragedy. Man’s hubris brings him down. It’s very much a cautionary tale of what pride does to us,” she said.