CUMBERLAND, Md. — Kristi Athey says she won’t be able to stop the tears when she arrives at the watery gravesite in the North Atlantic where the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank a century ago.
"It’s just so sad," said Athey, 47, a fourth-grade Maryland social studies teacher who has had a lifelong fascination with the Titanic. "I know I will be a mess."
She will be aboard the MS Balmoral on a cruise that re-enacts the Titanic’s maiden, fateful journey from Southampton, England, to the site of the sinking 375 miles south of Halifax, Newfoundland. Only the re-enactment voyage will continue on to the Titanic’s intended destination port of New York City.
The Balmoral cruise will replicate the details of the Titanic, including menus to mirror the meals, ship trappings and passengers and crew dressed in early 19th century attire. Historians will conduct lectures on the Titanic.
A memorial service will be held at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, marking the exact moment when the Titanic sank below the ocean with more than 1,000 people still aboard after foundering for nearly three hours upon striking the iceberg.
In all, 1,514 of the 2,224 people aboard the Titanic died in the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history. The ocean liner had only enough lifeboats to hold one-third of the passengers.
Athey and her sister, Nancy Pritchard of Frederick, Md., bought tickets on the re-enactment cruise almost two years ago as a way to relive history and honor the dead.
But that’s understandable when you consider they have a personal tie to the story of the Titanic. Athey said their grandmother had a ticket on the Titanic, but she didn’t take the trip because of a last-minute illness.
"Ever since I was a kid I’ve just had a big obsession with it," said Athey. "Grandma didn’t talk about it much, but I would always just think about it."