When I was a child I couldn’t get enough of stories about “those in peril on the sea.”
After reading Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember,” I felt an affinity with every imperiled soul who took that fatal first-and-final voyage on the H.M.S. Titanic.
I devoured everything from Herman Melville to Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer.” Melville’s “Benito Cereno” remains the most chilling story of mutiny ever written.
Those of us who have reached a certain age measure the passage of days by recalling certain historical events in our lifetime and declaring, “I cannot believe it’s been that long!”
Occasionally, a movie will come along that introduces a whole new generation to such events. James Cameron’s “Titanic” was one.
We now mark a passage of time and the final fading of a gilded era with the sad announcement of the death of Millvina Dean.
Millvina (2 February 1912 – 31 May 2009) was the last survivor of the sinking of the Titanic that fateful night of 15 April 1912.
She was two months old when she and her mother were rescued. Her father - a handsome, moustached young gentleman - drowned. I remember crying when Robert Ballard, scientist emeritus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, presented Millvina with her father’s gold pocket watch, salvaged from the ship’s wreckage.
Reportedly, the stars of Cameron’s “Titanic” provided funds for nursing home care in Millvina’s last years.
Even with her death, there can be no closure to a story that will never die.
Rest in peace, Millvina.
As I finish typing this post, there is breaking news that an Air France jetliner en route from Rio de Janiero to Paris has disappeared from radar over the Atlantic - with 228 souls aboard.
“Eternal Father, strong to save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep,
Oh, hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.”