The Titanic: Remembering More Than the Hit Movie

Men's Titanic Society remembers the bravery with unique toast in DC

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A look at a little-known tradition for a little-known memorial. (Published Thursday, Apr 15, 2010)

    Thursday was the 98th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, but the ill-fated iceberg incident began on the night of April 14.

    Just after midnight early Thursday morning, a small bus pulled up to the little-known Titanic Memorial that stands along the Washington Channel near Fourth and P streets in Southwest, just outside of the Ft. McNair walls.

    Emerging from the bus were almost two dozen men -- most with journalism careers dating back 50 years and more -- who all wore tuxedos and had just finished a dinner that mirrored the final night dinner on the Titanic.

    For 31 years, members of the invitation-only group have gathered at the memorial to toast "the brave men" on the Titanic, who gave up their places on lifeboats -- of which there were too few -- to save as many women and children as possible.

    The ceremony began at NBC's offices on Nebraksa Avenue in 1979, when several journalists put together a story about the little-known monument, which once stood where the Kennedy Center is today. On a lark, the group grabbed some flowers from the front of the NBC/WRC-TV building, got some champagne and went down to make their first toast. They've been doing it every April 14 since.

    "To the Brave Men -- hear, hear!" they say in unison as each participant recalls a portion of the tragic story. A ship's bell is rung.

    When they're finished, they fade into the night.

    Put April 14, 2011, on your calendar. It's something you might want to see yourself.