AFP – Wreaths were cast at sea and a memorial garden was unveiled Sunday in events worldwide to remember the more than 1,500 people who died in the sinking of the Titanic ocean liner exactly a century ago.
In Belfast, the city that built the Titanic, a memorial garden containing the first-ever monument to contain all the victims’ names was unveiled during a commemorative service attended by about 300 members of the public.
Earlier, wreaths were thrown into the Atlantic at the site of the wreck from MS Balmoral, a cruise ship that has traced the doomed liner’s route across the ocean, while people also held a minute’s silence.
And in Halifax, the Canadian port city from where ships sailed to retrieve bodies from the icy Atlantic waters following the sinking on April 15, 1912, and where 150 of Titanic’s victims are buried, church bells pierced the night.
The Titanic went down after hitting an iceberg about 800 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of Halifax.
Jane Allen, whose great uncle Thomas Pears went down with the ship leaving behind his new wife who was rescued, said being aboard MS Balmoral to partake in a Titanic memorial service had been an “incredible” experience.
She told the BBC: “We were all so keen to be at the memorial service. You look down over the side of the ship and you realise that every man and every woman who was not fortunate enough to get into a life boat had to make that decision of when to jump or to stay with the ship until the lights went out. … It changed everybody’s life forever,” she added.
In total, around 50 people on board the 12-night Titanic Memorial Cruise have a direct family connection to the sinking.
Overnight, the MS Balmoral — which has travelled from the English port of Southampton in England — and the Azamara Journey from New York City approached each other at the site where the Titanic went down to witness a partial reenactment.
The Azamara Journey’s captain announced a collision and a commemorative distress call.
“Have struck iceberg. … We require immediate assistance,” read the message. “Have struck iceberg and sinking … We are putting women off in boats.”
The Titanic had been sailing from Southampton on its maiden voyage toward New York when it sank.
In Northern Ireland on Sunday, a few hundred people attended a commemorative service outside Belfast City Hall, among them politicians and relatives of those who died, including a great-great nephew of the ship’s doctor.
“The focus of the world is on Belfast and we are doing her proud,” Una Reilly, head of the Belfast Titanic Society, told the audience.
“We are all proud of this ship. What happened was a disaster, she (the Titanic) was not.”
The Belfast memorial garden contains a nine-metre-wide plinth bearing five bronze plaques engraved with the names of the victims.
It is the first time the names of everyone who died has been recorded on one monument. Many existing memorials failed to include the Titanic crew or its musicians.
There is no distinction between first-class passengers and others, with names simply listed in alphabetical order.
US oceanographer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck in 1985, is in the Northern Irish capital and delivered a memorial lecture at the new Titanic Belfast visitor attraction on Saturday.
He spoke about the next 100 years, of preserving the wreck and making it available to all via communications technology, beaming live images from the depths.
Late on Saturday, a commemoration at Belfast’s Waterfront hall brought together stars from music and film. There was also a Requiem for the Lost Souls at St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral.
In Lichfield, central England, more than 1,500 candles were laid Saturday at the foot of the statue of Edward Smith, the Titanic’s captain.
In Halifax, marchers carried battery-powered candles and followed a horse-drawn carriage bearing a casket, stopping at some Titanic landmarks.
Warren Ervine, a geological engineer whose uncle Albert at the age of 18 was the youngest member of the Titanic crew, was among the participants.
“My father was always very sad,” Ervine recalled. “Like people coming back from the war, they did not want to talk about it. I did not even know he (uncle Albert) was a crew member until 10 years ago. I looked for him on the passenger list.”
At 12:27 am in Halifax on Sunday, the place fell silent to observe a moment of silence to mark the time when the last wireless telegraph message from the Titanic was received in Nova Scotia.
Afterward, bells rang from four churches where the ceremonies for the dead were held in 1912. The sky lit up as distress flares were fired into the air.