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April 13, 2012

Son recalls his mother's anguish over those not rescued

(Continued)

Mary worked as a nurse's aide caring for casualties streaming in from a front a mere 20 miles off. Again, she endured the cries of the dying.

Mary Lines had recovered from what her son describes as a nervous breakdown in 1920 when she married Sargent Holbrook Wellman, an American soldier she'd met in France. They settled in Massachusetts in 1923.

The Wellmans had three children, then grandchildren. The family retained Mary's flashlight along with a reservation ticket for a Titanic deck chair, keepsakes of a calamity.

Looking back on his mother's brush with history, Bradford Wellman said, "I don't think it's changed my life." His mother was a cheerful person. And knowing what she survived made him "more respectful" of both her and his grandmother.

Unafraid of the sea, Wellman said he's made several trips to Antarctica aboard cruise ships, adding: "I've seen a lot of icebergs."

Yet, he's never seen the Titanic movies. Nor would he join a sea excursion to the site of the wreck off the coast of Newfoundland.

Museums and articles about the Titanic do draw his attention. Asked why the story endures, he citeed some of his reading.

"The sinking was a disillusionment, a tragedy of the newly engineered mechanical world," he says. People had marveled as one incredible invention followed another, electric engines and lights, automobiles, moving pictures, telephones, ships with massive propellers shrinking the seas.

"Suddenly, one of these great wonders engineered by mankind was flawed," he says.

Less flawed were the men who stood to one side and allowed mostly women and children to access the lifeboats — "and the wives who decided to stay with their husbands."

He tells his mother's story with the ease of someone who has shared the same tale many times before. But there is a reason he hasn't seen the movies.

Wellman recalls visiting a Titanic museum in London and pausing over an engagement ring recovered from the wreck. Passing the various exhibits he'd been fine, but now at the end he stared at that ring, a symbol of loss, of interrupted dreams, of all the cruel memories his mother had carried in her heart.

And he began to weep.

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