Candlelight vigil marks Titanic anniversary in Halifax
Published Saturday, April 14, 2012 9:29PM EDT
A candlelight procession through Halifax Saturday evening was but one of countless events in Canada and abroad that marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.
A horse-drawn carriage led a procession from the waterfront through downtown Halifax to the Grand Parade, where music and storytelling performances marked the date the ship sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic: April 15, 1912.
The city saw the arrival of ships carrying Titanic victims almost a century ago. Halifax is home to graves belonging to 150 of the Titanic's approximately 1,500 victims, a visual reminder of the city's role in the ship's history.
Hundreds of mourners, some wearing period dress, filed solemnly through the city as the sound of bagpipes filled the night air.
Thomas Hodgson travelled from Sydney, Australia to be part of an event that touched so many lives the world over.
"You only really have to be here to realize how tragic and terrible it was," said Hodgson.
"It affects the whole world like 9-11 affects the whole world."
Those organizing commemorative events in Nova Scotia said they understood the intense interest in the luxury cruise liner, but wanted to keep events tasteful. The untimely loss of thousands of lives is to be remembered, not celebrated, they said.
"Keeping the events respectful and meaningful has been our No. 1 priority all along," Kyla Friel, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia's Communities, Culture and Heritage Department, told The Canadian Press.
With the candlelit procession, moment of silence and musical performances, Friel said she believed planners struck that balance.
After the procession, actor Gordon Pinsent was on hand to retell the story of how the Titanic, the largest ocean liner of its times, went down south of the Grand Banks.
"People marvelled, not just on hearing of the Titanic's sheer size, but on learning of her grand opulence," said a tuxedo-clad Pinsent.
"She was a sight to behold -- massive and majestic, shiny and sleek -- everyone wanted to be part of her maiden voyage to America."
A moment of silence was to follow, with church bells set to ring out at 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
Other locations in Halifax also planned to mark the centennial. The Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill, once a funeral home where the bodies of Titanic victims were prepped for burial, offered a meal inspired by the Titanic's first-class menu.
Kilometres away on the water, a cruise ship retraced the Titanic's ill-fated route.
Passengers and crew were to hold two memorial services; one off the coast of Newfoundland to mark when the ship hit an iceberg, and another to commemorate the moment the ship was swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean.
A minister was to lead prayers at the service, while attendees threw wreaths into the sea. During it all, a live band was to play "Nearer My God To Thee," the song the Titanic's on-ship band is believed to have played as the cruise liner went down.
"It will bring healing, it will bring some form of closure, perhaps -- but I think it will also bring hope," Prayer leader Rev. Huw Mosford told the BBC before the ceremony.
Commemorative events occurring in other parts of the world:
- Belfast, Ireland: Thousands attended a choral requiem at the Anglican St Anne's Cathedral. There was also a nationally televised concert, featuring Bryan Ferry and Joss Stone, at the city's Waterfront Hall on Saturday.
- Southampton, England: An orchestra played composer Gavin Bryars' commemorative piece "The Sinking of the Titanic"
- Las Vegas, San Diego, Singapore and elsewhere: Venues are hosting Titanic exhibitions that include artifacts recovered from the wreck
With files from The Associated Press