In memoriam: Somber ceremony at sea marks 100 years since Titanic tragedy (PHOTOS)
Both ships arrived at the very place the Titanic sank a century ago, to mark the solemn occasion. One – the MS Balmoral – set sail from the UK, while the Azamara Journey left from New York, but both ships carried many passengers for whom the trip was very personal.
Jane Allen of Devon in southwest England, whose great uncle perished on the Titanic, said the moment vividly reminded her of the horror of the disaster.
“All you could hear was the swell splashing against the side of the ship. You could see the white breakers stretching out to sea,” she said. “You are in the middle of nowhere. And then you look down over the side of the ship and you realize that every man and every woman who didn't make it into a lifeboat had to make that decision, of when to jump or stay on the ship as the lights went out.''
Many aboard felt the same. The Journey’s captain said he needed a moment to himself when the ceremony began, because he was completely overwhelmed.
“I wondered how difficult it was for them on a night that was even colder than this,” the captain said.
The ceremony itself was both beautiful and heart-wrenching. An orchestra from New York City played Nearer My God to Thee – the exact same tune the Titanic’s orchestra played as the giant ship broke apart and sank in the middle of the night on April 15th, 1912.
Conductor Kevin Carpenter said it was a great honor to play at the event – to honor not only those who died, or their families – but the Titanic’s musicians as well.
“The musicians realized they were going to die and instead of fighting or running like cowards they just remained and did the only thing they knew how to do to make it easier for people who were scared and panicked,” he said on the ship’s deck after finishing the final lament.
Exactly a century after the ship went down, passengers lined the decks of the two cruise ships. After a moment of silence, floral wreaths were cast onto the waves as the ships’ whistles sounded in the dark.
The Titanic, the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner, was traveling from England to New York when it struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. It sank less than three hours later, with the loss of all but 700 of the 2,208 passengers and crew.
A century on, events around the globe marked a tragedy that retains its grip on the world's imagination.
In Belfast, a memorial monument was unveiled Sunday at a ceremony attended by local dignitaries, relatives of the dead and explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985.
And a US Coast Guard crew scattered a staggering 1.5 million red rose petals on the water, commemorating all those who died.
Remembrance ceremonies also were being held in the ship's departure port of Southampton, in southern England — home to hundreds of Titanic crew who perished — and in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where more than 100 victims of the tragedy are buried.
Watch part of the remembrance service
A cruise ship lies over the Titanic disaster site in the western Atlantic Ocean (Reuters / Chris Helgren)
Passengers take part in service of remembrance aboard the Titanic Memorial Cruise in the western Atlantic Ocean (Reuters / Chris Helgren)
Belgian quintet Grupetto perform during a service of remembrance aboard the Titanic Memorial Cruise in the western Atlantic Ocean (Reuters / /Chris Helgren)
Passengers observe a two minute silence on board the Titanic Memorial Cruise in the western Atlantic Ocean (Reuters / Chris Helgren)
(Reuters / Chris Helgren)
Susie Millar cries after a service of remembrance aboard the Titanic Memorial Cruise in the western Atlantic Ocean (Reuters / Chris Helgren)
People gather in the Grand Parade for performances commemorating the 100th anniversary Titanic sinking in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Reuters / Paul Darrow)
Two women hold candles as they watch presentations commemorating the100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in Halifax Nova Scotia (Reuters / Paul Darrow)
A horse-drawn carriage with period style casket leads a procession past St.Paul's church in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia (Reuters / Paul Darrow)
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Juniper crew members lay 1.5 million dried rose petals over the RMS Titanic's resting site in the north Atlantic Ocean (Reuters / Handout)
A woman touches a plaque bearing the names of those who died when the Titanic sank, at the unveiling of the Titanic Memorial Garden in Belfast (Reuters / Cathal McNaughton)