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Apparently many of the crew aboard the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which grounded off the coast of Tuscany, attempted to save their own lives without trying to help others. That sort of selfish conduct is in direct contrast to what happened aboard the RMS Titanic 100 years ago. After that ship struck an iceberg, its captain ordered a women and children first evacuation policy, which the crew assiduously followed. And so did the passengers, who were on a ship with lifeboats that could accommodate only a little over half of those on board.     

Benjamin Guggenheim spent his final hours changing into formal eveningwear in order to die with dignity as a gentleman. Isador Straus (the co-owner of Macy’s) was offered a chance to get into a lifeboat because of his advanced age, but he refused. John Jacob Astor IV helped load his pregnant wife onto a lifeboat and then stepped back to join the rest of the men on the Titanic’s deck.   

The crew of the ship also behaved courageously. The engineers and assistant engineers stuck to their posts and kept the power on and lights burning until almost the very last moment. All 34 of them perished. The vessel’s eight-man orchestra kept playing their music to keep the passengers from panicking, only stopping when the incline of the ship made further playing impossible. They also did not survive. And the Titanic’s captain, in the great tradition of the sea, went down with his ship.

Courage and discipline were in great evidence among those on board the Titanic the night the ship took its final plunge.  Sadly, these two character traits were in short supply in the Costa Concordia tragedy.

Martin H. Levinson
Forest Hills

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