Boyhood fascination with Titanic leads to lasting life lessons

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PLEASANT GROVE -- A Pleasant Grove man's fascination with the Titanic has earned him a reputation as an expert on the historic disaster.

Jeff Jensen's interest started as an 8-year-old child, flourishing when he was 9, and as a teenager become a guest speaker on the topic at Utah schools. As an adult, his expertise has been called upon by MSNBC and Canadian television.

"I was actually able to go to Boston for a Titanic convention and meet about a dozen survivors and interview them," Jensen said.

At the convention, he purchased a matchstick model of the Titanic, which took more than 50,000 matchsticks to build. It took the man who made it eight years to build the model. It's certainly not your average childhood souvenir, but Jensen's interest was somewhat extraordinary for his age.

He says that the stories of the Titanic are about more than disaster and tragedy, that they give us insight to our humanity and who we are as a people.

"When I studied the Titanic early on, it was really the people that got me into the story," Jensen said. "Studying about the captain and how he reacted, and why he reacted that way."

Jensen said that's what has driven his interest for so many years, and what has aided him in amassing a wide collection of newspapers, books and pictures of the ship.

"The first day several papers ran the headlines that all passengers were safe, the Titanic's being towed, and people weren't quite sure what was going on," he said.

But he says looking at people's reaction at the time can offer some deeper reflection into who we are now.

"A lot of people look at it now as a metaphor: the pride of mankind, and almost this divine lesson of people having said that God himself could not sink this ship," Jensen said.

He says there were many heroes that day, as well as many cowards amid the many things that went wrong.

"So many different things that does give the disaster a sort of mystical quality, almost a quality of it was destined to happen," Jensen said.

Jensen feels it's important to look back at history and the lessons learned both technically and personally.

"We look at those people who are now enshrined in history," he said. "Everyone knows Captain Smith went down with the ship, and these different passengers, and yet prior to this event, they were pretty much just normal people -- like you and me."

Jensen now spends a lot of his time speaking at schools telling the story of the Titanic and bringing along his display of visual aids.


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