April 15th holds an important, but dark place in history. It was April 15th, 1912 that the Titanic sank during its maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg. It's a story that captivated the world then and endures to this day. That's precisely why a couple of Titanic attractions have popped up here in the United States. I visited the museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and was blown away by the impact and power of the exhibit and experience.

When you "board" the exhibit, you're assigned the identity of a passenger who was on that ill-fated maiden voyage. That name is on the back of the boarding card you are handed at the terminal. Along with the name, you're given information from historians and experts about that particular passenger. I was assigned the name Alfred Pugh. During my journey through Titanic, I came to know Alfred very well.

Alfred was a 20-year-old crew member on the Titanic.  In fact, he was a dining room steward in 3rd class, which was a relatively rare position.  Typically, in 1912, cruise ships didn't serve food to 3rd class passengers.  They had to bring their own.  Seriously.  They had to brown-bag it!  But, that's yet another detail that separated Titanic from other cruise vessels and made her so special and unique.  Titanic served its 3rd class passengers much like she served her most elite patrons.

Alfred had worked on cruise ships before.  He had already sailed on the Oceanic, which was another ship in White Star Line's fleet.  White Star Line was the company that owned and operated this "Olympic" fleet of ships.  Alfred worked alongside his brother and the two jumped at the opportunity to be a part of history and join the crew of Titanic.  But, with this adventure they, and everyone else on board, got much more than they bargained for.  They truly had to fight for their lives.

And that's the really awesome and ultimately moving part of the Titanic experience.  At the end of your tour at the exhibit in Pigeon Forge, you happen upon on the memorial wall.

Every single passenger aboard the ship is listed.  But sadly, so are their fates.  You actually learn which passengers lived and which ones perished at sea.  I am not going to lie, I was secretly crossing my fingers through the entire exhibit hoping that I (rather Alfred) would make it off the ship.  Being part of the crew in 3rd class, I must admit that I wasn't hopeful.  They always say, "Women and children first" and Alfred just didn't fit either category.  And he was crew.  He also didn't have a lot of money and Titanic was full of passengers who, quite honestly, had the means to "buy" their way off the ship.  See, the lifeboats were only equipped to accommodate about half the passengers.  And, making matters even worse, the crew hadn't been versed in an evacuation plan.  This truly had "disaster" written all over it and I was fearful that Alfred was going to get left behind.

But he didn't.  Alfred Pugh made it into a lifeboat and survived the Titanic.  The ship hit an iceberg at 11:40pm and sank two hours and 40 minutes later.  Yes.  A ship that took two full years to build took a mere two and half hours to split in half and sink.

Titanic is a powerful story and a powerful exhibit.  I actually found myself crying inside it.

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Sure, James Cameron's movie recreated the tragedy and brought it to life on the big screen, but the Titanic exhibit brings the passengers to life.  It brings their stories to life and immerses you in the tragedy.

For instance, in one area of the exhibit you can actually stand on the Titanic's sloping decks.  And you can experience what those clinging to life experienced.  I can tell you, after having stood on all three, that trying to hang on for dear life would have been harrowing.  My calves were burning after a couple of seconds on those platforms.  I can't imagine being in that position any longer than I was.  Those who were there, on that fateful night in 1912, knew that if they slipped, they fell to their deaths.

At Titanic, you can also sit inside a life boat and read the stories about the folks who also sat in those seats.  There they were, in the dark of night, scared, shaken, freezing, terrified and, in some cases, alone.  I sat in the seat of my lifeboat and truly reflected on how fragile our lives are.

Once you walk through Titanic, study the ship and its history, and hear the stories from its ghosts, you will be hooked. You will quickly understand why this story has become such an important one to share.

And, I highly recommend Titanic Pigeon Forge!  The next time you journey to the Smoky Mountains, take some time to head out to sea on the maiden voyage of the majestic Titanic!  You can make your reservations online at TitanicPigeonForge.com!

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