My first clue that something was wrong was the screeching sound of metal tearing. Then the screams.
That was 40 minutes ago. There was no doubt about it now. The ship was going to sink.
We were third class passengers, so the chances of getting my family on a lifeboat were slim. We waded through water in the lower deck from our small cabin to the stairs, and climbed up.
Then on the upper level, we could see the massive crowd of two thousand confused, scared people. Frantic people were pushing and shoving their way towards the emergency life boats.
My wife, Claire, and our young daughter, Marie, stayed by my side.
We got the tickets with the last scrap of money we had saved. A trip across the Atlantic -- what an adventure! The Titanic. An unsinkable goliath. The greatest ship in the world.
At that moment, it all seemed like a distant memory.
The past didn't matter anymore. The only thing that mattered was getting my family to safety. I needed to be calculating. I needed to be cold — like the frigid water up to our waist, but seconds before.
I held Claire close, and pressed my lips against her forehead. This was the act that must be concealed. The secret I would take to my watery grave. Our final goodbye, marred with a moment of deception.
Then Marie came next.
"It's time to go, Sweetie," I said to my precious daughter, "We're going to get on this lifeboat. Then soon, another ship will come rescue us."
I took my wife and daughter's hands and made my way toward the edge of the ship.
"But, wait Daddy!" Marie shouted, "My teddy! I've lost Teddy!"
Claire tried to console her, "It's okay honey. We need to go."
Marie dug in her heels, and shouted, "No! I won't go without my Teddy."
I looked at her, and spoke the most difficult words I have ever uttered, "Okay baby girl, I will go back and get him. You stay with Mommy, and be good!"
I turned quickly, not wanting her to see the tears welling up.
I slowly pushed against the crowd, and soon my family was a distant vision.
40 minutes earlier:
"She will never get on that boat without you," Claire whispered to me, back in the cabin. She understood the gravity and reality of the situation.
"Women and children only. We're third class, Claire. They will not let me on," I replied solemnly.
"Then we must be sneaky. She cannot know the truth until we're safe," Claire said.
The quick exchange of the bear, masked as a hug between husband and wife. To our daughter it must have just seemed like a moment of support and compassion, during a harrowing time. It was a secret I would take with me to the bottom of the ocean.
Now, I am alone. Back in my cabin once more. The water slowly rises around me, as I lie in bed.
They say that at the end, your life flashes before your eyes. I see my childhood. I grow up the son of a laborer. I meet Claire. We share our first kiss, then we get married. She knows we don't have much, but she loves me anyway. Marie is born. I hold her in my arms, and vow to protect her for the rest of my life.
The RMS Titanic sank that night of April 14, 1912.
It took a man named Gerry Warren with it, along with a secret: the truth about a missing stuffed bear for which his daughter was desperately searching, and a ruse to get her on a lifeboat without him. Gerry was a good father, devoted to his wife and child until the end.
Claire Warren and her daughter, Marie, survived the disaster — rescued by RMS Carpathia after an hour and a half in the icy waters. Marie eventually grew up and got married.
She forgave her father for his deception, and wished he could have been there to walk her down the aisle. Perhaps her grandchildren are reading this today, discovering the true hero he was.
Rest in peace, Gerry.
About the Creator
Insurance broker by day, library owl by night. Avid writer, proud father, devoted husband, and novice chess player. B.Sc. from Queen's University.
Currently living in Alberta with my wife and two children.