NEW YORK (AP) _ A 9-foot piece of nautical rope that hasn't been touched by sea water in more than eight decades was returned to an ocean liner's pier Saturday, brought out of safekeeping for a memorial to a maritime tragedy.

The rope, part of a private collection, was originally attached to a lifeboat that saved some of the 705 people who escaped the sinking Titanic in April 1912.

The thick, brownish braid lay curled on the Hudson River pier Saturday, the first time some of the victims' relatives gathered at the now-abandoned, 1,000-foot-long wharf where terrified survivors came ashore from the Carpathia, the ship that rescued them from their lifeboats.

The Titanic sank with 1,523 men, women and children after it hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Britain to the United States.

The stricken ship ``stood upright like a column in the sea for five minutes, and those in the lifeboats could hear the screams of the drowning,'' said Nicholas Wade.

His grandfather, an English high-school teacher, was among the lucky ones who were brought to the Carpathia's landing at Pier 54, on the western edge of Greenwich Village.

The dilapidated pier where the memorial was held was once Cunard Line's gateway to the world.

Those who never made it include Clifford Harris, a 14-year-old Titanic bellhop, and his brother, Charles, an 18-year-old steward. They ``died with their arms around each other as the Titanic sank,'' said their niece, Gladys Strickland, who was then a 2-year-old girl living in Southampton, England.

The 87-year-old resident of Fredericksburg, Va., still wears a gold locket bearing the young men's photos.

``One of them could have been saved, but he missed the lifeboat,'' she said, sadness filling her eyes as she closed the locket.

Half a dozen other relatives also attended the ceremony organized by New Jersey-based Titanic International, whose 800 members in 23 countries are recording the history of the disaster.