NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (August 07, 2014) –The 233 persons who perished when the M.V. Christena sank en route to Nevis from St. Kitts on August 1 1970, should never be forgotten. That sentiment was expressed by Premier of Nevis Hon. Vance Amory at a Memorial Service to mark the 44th anniversary of the tragic event at the Memorial on the Charlestown Waterfront on August 01, 2014.
“Beyond prayers and expressions of sympathy, we can truly honour those who perished in the Christena Disaster by simply seeking to be better persons, better in our private lives, become better friends, better children and better parents and in so doing, we will be truly honouring and we will be true to the memory of those whose demise and whose memory we honour and celebrate today.
“May we never forget those who perished and what we have lost in their death but let us look forward to how we can let their example, let their sacrifice guide us in this land of ours into a better and brighter day for all of us,” he said.
The Premier said the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) had sort to erect a permanent reminder of a part of the island’s history even though it was a traumatic incident.
“I am aware that with time, the pain dulls a little bit. It diminishes a little bit but I am also aware that it will never totally disappear.
“When [the NIA] established that monument, we did so because we did not want the memory of that event, sad as it was, to be forgotten. I think it is in one of the books in the Old Testament that we are admonished and advised that we should not forget our history and our experiences but that we should teach those experiences and our history to our children. We should let them bind it on their foreheads lest they forget.
“Forgetting sometimes is as a result of our wanting to salve our hurts but I think it is more important, for me and I think all of us, that we try not to gloss over nor forget important events, even if they are sad, in our history. So today we have come to remember those who perished at sea in the sinking of the M.V. Christena on August 1st, 1970, a day which we have ensured will not be forgotten ever and will be etched in the annals of our history,” he said.
Mr. Amory noted that the incident served as an important landmark in the history of Nevis even though it was a sad memory for many and should be remembered in that way.
“Even if we are not going to mourn, we must still remember it because it is important for us as a landmark, as a watershed day in the history of St. Kitts and Nevis but more so in the history of Nevis.
“The memory of those who perished at sea, must be held by all of us, not just those who were family and friends but by all of us in this country because every single one of those individuals, no matter how insignificant we thought they were, contributed to the economic and social wellbeing of our country and because they had made their contribution, it is for us, as a people, to continue to remember them,” he said.
Notwithstanding, the Premier also spoke of the 90 survivors and the heroism of those who helped and cared for them on that fateful Saturday afternoon.
“The other 90 persons who survived are truly remarkable people. The seamen, the doctors, the nurses and the average Nevisian man and woman who assisted in their survival and who tended to them after they were brought to shore reminds us that heroism does not take any special talent or strength. It is a condition of the heart and on that Saturday afternoon, in the face of considerable odds, the selflessness and the courage of those persons, defined the true meaning of heroism.
“As we reflect on the causes and the impact of that tragedy, we must also continue to ensure that we who are left, we are here to carry on the history and the development of our country that we must find a way of seeing that tragedy, that 1st of August, 1970 event, the sinking of the Christena, as something which should enable us to see… that life is fleeting and that we ought to see ourselves as human beings in this country; as seeking to find a way of ensuring that we breach and bridge the divide and that we eradicate the divisiveness because we do not know what lies ahead of us in the immediate future,” he said.
However, Mr. Amory said lessons had been learnt since the M.V. Christena sank 44 years ago that greatly improved preparedness in the event of emergencies at sea. However, the incident should force one to reflect on how they lived their life.
“The lessons learned from that tragedy, has greatly improved our preparedness as we and our seamen who ply the seas have had to take certain measures just in case there is an emergency…This disaster must also cause us to look backwards and reflect and it also should force us to look forward and to look also, at how we intend to frame and to fashion our future. It should motivate us to think about the manner in which we live our lives and to strengthen our resolve and to strengthen our relationships with those who are still with us.
“We should ask ourselves, ‘Do we spend enough time with our loved ones? Do we express our gratitude for all of the sacrifices which they have made for us? Do we express to our family and our friends how deeply we love and care for them? Have we shown enough generosity and kindness to the people in our lives; those people in our communities, even if they have different faith and different beliefs from ourselves?’ I think those are important questions which we could see and look to the event we are commemorating today to reshape, redesign our social fabric,” he said.
In conclusion, the Premier reminded that the Christena Disaster should serve as a reminder to all of their mortality.
“The Christena Disaster, like all other tragedies, should also remind us of our mortality and should remind us of our relationship with God. It should remind us that in the short time that we have on this earth, what matters most is not status, not fame, not wealth or power but rather how well we have loved and how well we have established and how we have impacted others.
“It must also say to us and speak to us of how successful we are in making a positive difference in the lives of people with whom we mix and mingle from day to day,” he said.