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April 13, 2012

Son recalls his mother's anguish over those not rescued

(Continued)

It was a freezing, black night but a calm sea. Passengers faced the choice of being set adrift in lifeboats in the frigid Atlantic or staying aboard the unsinkable Titanic. At first, they mostly chose the latter. (The Titanic had only enough lifeboats for one-third of the more than 2,000 passengers.)

"Hers was one of the lifeboats they let go unfilled," said Wellman. "It pulled away." And there must have been misgivings on board because there was virtually nothing in the way of survival gear.

"Just the oars," he said.

In their lifeboat on a dark night, Mary and her mother were at least grateful to have the flashlight, hoping if worse came to worst they could use it to alert a passing vessel, said Wellman. "It was the only light they had."

Before their eyes, slowly but inexorably, the mighty Titanic disappeared into a black ocean. All lifeboats gone, desperate people began to leap into the icy water.

Heart-rending pleas for help reached the Lineses and others who "wanted to go back and pick people up. The crew would not do it. They were afraid the boat would be swamped." Wellman shrugged grimly. "Understandably."

He added, "Mother remembered all her life the cries of the people in the water, dying."

As those desperate voices weakened and died out, a freezing night followed, the huddled survivors not knowing what would become of them. Mary would later speak of the kindness of passengers and crew aboard Carpathia, the British steamship that picked them up in the morning.

Meanwhile, her father, a doctor working in France for an American insurance company, was frantic for days until he learned his wife and daughter had survived.

In the aftermath of the disaster, the family retreated to Paris. But before too many months, in 1914, World War I broke out. Dr. Ernest Lines devoted himself to treating French soldiers horribly mutilated in the fighting, paraplegics and quadriplegics.

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    March 12, 2010

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