To David Sifre...
Teresa Mars - Pharmacist/Wife of Wave Dancer victim Ray Mars
January 8, 2004 at 20:56:28
First, thank you for your expression of sympathy. I do appreciate it. Yes, I do have the letter, but have it packed away, and do not wish to get it out because of the extreme pain it caused, due to it's cruelty.
As for what you describe as the survivors' "trauma", I do not accept that as an excuse for them not helping me and the other victims' family members to understand what happened in Belize. As you can well imagine, I have been extremely traumatized myself, yet I have somehow found the strength to do the things that need to be done, including caring for others in my family.
Did you know that one of the survivors - Rick Patterson - promised me at my husband's wake in Maryland that he would get me copies of pictures taken before and after the capsizing, showing the snapped lines, and other damage. He promised to help me in any way to make sure Peter Hughes would be held accountable for decisions and actions that led directly to the deaths of 20 people, and indeed, Rick was seemingly more intent on those issues at that time than I was.
I also would like to add that the conduct of the survivors after the tragedy suggests to me, at least, that their "trauma" was more induced by their lawsuit against Peter Hughes Diving Inc. and Captain Phillip Martin. Think about it. As soon as the lawsuit was settled and as soon as they pocketed the money, the survivors suddenly found the courage and strength to speak out, and give the information that I had begged for not to us, but to a magazine writer.
So, please understand why I have some difficulty accepting your assertion that they were (and are) just too traumatized by the horrors of that night to communicate with me and the many others who lost their loved ones.
All of the family members are extremely tramautized, indeed probably always will be, and that trauma was only increased many times over by a travel magazine article implying that the victims were somehow responsible for their own deaths. None of us knew anything about that article until it was published.
So we finally got the horrific details of our loved ones' deaths, not from the surviving Richmond Dive Club members who were with them in Belize, but from a cold, impersonal travel magazine article published by a company - National Geographic - that several months before announced a joint venture with the dive industry to profit from dive travel and other scuba-related products.
Again, all we had asked was that these survivors - Dave DeBarger, Rick Patterson and Mary Lou Hayden - give us the information we so desperately sought, painful though it may be. But in the end, we and the general public got the horrible details of our loved ones' deaths from an article blaming the victims for trusting people - the captain, the crew, Peter Hughes - who deceived the Wave Dancer passengers.
I was recently reading a book about those who lost their loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One family member said that one of the most offensive statements came from someone who commented about attending so many funerals. Dave DeBarger has said, over and over again, how many funerals he attended, and how "he cried at every one".
Yet despite all of his "tears and suffering" after losing his close friends, DeBarger, as the acting president of the Richmond Dive Club, was cold and calculating enough to flat out refuse our request for the RDC to support our campaign for a full and proper investigation of the Wave Dancer deaths.
Why? Too traumatized? Or too caught up with the other survivors in discussions with their lawyer about how much they could get suing Hughes if they made all the right moves? Remember--at the memorial service for 17 dead Richmond Dive Club members - including my beloved husband Ray - this is the same "traumatized" guy who expressed his condolences (and his trauma?) by shouting (with a big smile on his face): "LET'S GO DIVING!"
So David, please forgive me if I can't quite get myself to accept the notion that the survivors were just "too traumatized" to talk with us. As the only widow from this tragedy, I can definitely assure you that nothing the survivors experienced can, nor should, be mentioned in the same sentence as the trauma I am suffering to this day, nor the pain and misery all of the family members will continue to feel each and every day for the remainder of their lives.
No amount of money will ever heal our wounds. We would gladly return every penny we got in the settlement. We would gladly give up every penny in our savings accounts. We would gladly give away everything we own if only we could get our loved ones back.