Diane Radford, M.D.

Titanic: 100 Years On.

April 20, 2012

When the rope was lowered allowing us to enter the Titanic Artifacts Exhibit we were each handed a red rose and a boarding pass for the vessel, bearing a passenger’s name. Our tickets were for April 15th 2012, exactly 100 years from the day the doomed behemoth plunged two and a half miles down through the frigid North Atlantic waters to the ocean floor.

The name on my boarding pass was Mrs. Frederick Quick (Jane Richards), a 33-year-old mother of two daughters, Winifred and Phyllis, aged 8 and 2. She was traveling with her children back to her husband in Detroit, after visiting relatives in her native England. Jane and Fred had been married ten years. Fred adored her. He had pinpricked the words I love you on a leaf, a leaf she was carrying with her on the voyage.

The events of the cold, starry, moonless night of April 14th 1912 have been well recorded. At 11.40pm the largest ship in the world, the practically unsinkable RMS Titanic, struck an iceberg. Water gushed into six of her watertight compartments. She could not recover from such an injury. Two hours and forty minutes later she sank to the depths. If fewer compartments had flooded she would have been able to stay afloat. Many have speculated on what might have happened if circumstances had been different that night. If the moon had shone, illuminating the berg; if the water had been choppy, frothing around the base of the ice, making it visible; if she had hit the ice head on perhaps fewer compartments would have flooded; and if the key to the cabinet containing the binoculars had not been taken off the ship, sequestered in a crewmember’s pocket. We know that the lifeboats were not full to capacity. We know that a coal strike caused some passengers to be rescheduled from other vessels to the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

The tour revealed many aspects of life on the ship, the Versailles-like opulence of first class; the marble faucets, the porcelain and other table wear, different for each class. Vignettes about various passengers taught us about these individuals, their backgrounds, their purpose for travel. We saw the leather case containing 62 of 65 perfume samples carried by the perfumier Adolphe Saalfeld. The aroma of the mixture of scents could be detected through the fenestrated plexiglass.

In the last room of the exhibit listed on the wall were the lost and the saved. By now I had bonded with Jane. I was rooting for her. I found myself thinking what did she say to her children, how did she comfort them? My eyes scanned the list of the lost from second class, she and her children were not there. I breathed again. Jane, Phyllis and Winifred were among the saved. I found out later that she was one of the lucky on lifeboat number 11, the third lifeboat launched. Jane was the last person to board the lifeboat. She was reunited with Fred, and went on to have two more children, and died aged 85.

Before we left the exhibit, I bent down and gently placed my rose beneath Jane’s name. I said a prayer for the souls of the lost and for those who were saved, 100 years before.

 

 

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  • http://twitter.com/pamalert Pamela Evans

    What an incredible story! The exhibit is VERY powerful and moving. It’s true . . . one does bond with one’s boarding pass and the passenger’s name bestowed upon onself for the “on land” voyage. That fateful night, grace was at hand.

  • http://dianeradfordmd.com Diane Radford

    Thanks so much for your commen. The boarding pass really helps make the experience very real.