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Tales from the Titanic

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  • | 4:00 a.m. April 4, 2012
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — A three-ring binder lies open on Lakewood Ranch resident Ken Chamberlin’s dining table, serving as a historical account of one of the world’s most prolific disasters.

Inside its binder are hundreds of pages of detailed notes, accounts and photographs on the sinking of the Titanic, which Chamberlin has spent the past 40 years collecting. He’s read just about every book ever written on the subject and has spoken with 10 of the Titanic’s survivors.

Now, as the 100th anniversary of the disaster approaches, Chamberlin will share accounts of what happened prior to, during and after the sinking of the Titanic during Sarasota Baptist Church’s “A Night on the Titanic” April 13. During the event, which will be at the church’s Proctor Road campus, 7091 Proctor Road, Sarasota, guests will dress up in period costumes and set sail for a historical evening. Boarding passes for the event, which begins at 5:30 p.m., are $16 and will be available at the church through April 9.

“I hope people walk away with a fascination about history,” Chamberlin said.

Chamberlin’s interest in the Titanic surfaced back when he was a young boy. Chamberlin, who was 12 years old at the time, received a copy of Walter Lord’s best-selling novel “A Night to Remember” from his grandmother.

Something about the book, which depicted the events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, struck a chord with Chamberlin. He began reading and researching, jotting down notes as he went along. Several years later, Chamberlin began talking to friends and groups of people about the Titanic.

“It was the end of an era,” Chamberlin said. “Everyone was at peace. ... Then, the Titanic sank, and that was really a slap in the face.”

Twenty-two hundred people were on board the Titanic the night it sank; 710 of those people located in third class. There were no boat assignments or lifeboat drills prior to the voyage, and as the Titanic pulled away from the harbor, rats were seen leaving the ship and the birds refused to follow it out to sea.

The Titanic nearly rammed another ship leaving the harbor, and as it sailed into the distance, a family was having a picnic on a nearby overlook. A lady quickly got up and became hysterical, stating the ship was going to sink before it reached America.

“Four days later, she was right,” Chamberlin said. “I love stuff like that.

Chamberlin joined the Titanic Historical Society 30 years ago, which has provided him with quarterly newsletters and opportunities to attend conventions and meet several survivors.

Chamberlin, who worked as a commercial sales manager for United Airlines until retiring in 1995, has met 10 survivors, the last of which died April 10, 2011.

“Meeting the survivors — that’s what’s really given me my best stories,” Chamberlin said. “These are stories that aren’t in books.”

Chamberlin has heard numerous accounts from survivors of their final moments aboard the Titanic before it slipped below the dark, still blanket of the Atlantic Ocean.

One of his favorite stories to tell is that of a 4-year-old boy, who was traveling in third class with his mother and sister. As the halls began to jam up, the boy got separated from his mother. As he stood crying in the hallway, a steward grabbed him and carried him up two decks to the boat dock, tossing him into the final boat as it was leaving.

It wasn’t until the boy reached the rescue ship that he was reunited with his mom and sister.

“I like to see the audience’s reaction to it,” Chamberlin said. “I’m not a bad storyteller. I’ve been talking to audiences (for a long time). You see the gasps and tears and hear the laughter, and you feel like you were really on the ship. It’s been fun.

“It’s like walking back in time,” Chamberlin said. “I thrill to that.”

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].

A Night on the Titanic
WHEN: 5:30 p.m., April 13
WHERE: Sarasota Baptist Church Proctor Road Campus, 7091 Proctor Road, Sarasota
COST: $16, registration deadline April 9
CONTACT: 922-1449


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