The Way I See It

The way I see it, our history ought to guide and dictate our future, in a positive way.
On Thursday 1st August, I attended the annual service of commemoration for the worst boating disaster and probably the worst disaster ever, in the history of the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
It was the service of remembrance, held at the official memorial site, situated at the Samuel Hunkins Drive, which keeps in our eternal memory, the sinking of the MV Christena, on that fateful Saturday afternoon-1st of August 1970.
I remember what I was doing then.
As a little boy, I was assisting my mother with some cleaning in the living room.
Now, there are a few things that have happened in my lifetime that I seriously cannot explain and I truly plan by God’s grace, that when I get to heaven, to ask King Jesus to please explain such happenings.
One such strange occurrence, took place on that afternoon-1st August 1970.
There were two huge mirrors in that room at the time and they had been there from since I knew myself.
We had paused from our work and were talking about something, when CRASH!
One of the mirrors, without being touched or shaken, simply crashed to the wooden floor and broke into pieces.
My mother’s immediate response was: ‘That is an omen. Something bad is going to happen.’
Being the eternal skeptic as regards things supernatural, I openly scoffed at the idea, but my mother remained adamant that something really bad was going to occur and soon…..
Later that afternoon, we got the news that the MV Christena had gone down.
I remember that we all packed into my father’s car and we headed to town.
When we got in the vicinity of the pier, we learnt that they were throwing dead bodies onto the pier and most of us wanted to go there, because by now we would have heard that one of my cousins and his father should have been on the boat.
I remember my cousin Roy—Lemuel Pemberton’s brother. A very quiet individual but a superb carpenter.
One of my brothers, (who will remain unnamed for the purpose of this class), bawled so much because he did not want see any dead bodies, that my father eventually said we would return home.
There were some amazing stories coming out of that tragedy. I have since discovered that some of them were not even true and on Thursday, I finally got one cleared up.
I had always heard that the venerable Franklyn Browne, after looking for and locating his son Roger, swam all the way to the Charlestown pier.
Many times as I passed by boat in the general area of the disaster, I just could not fathom why they would have done that, when NAG”S HEAD was so much closer.
I always said if it was me, I would have headed to NAG’S Head.
It just made logical sense and Mr. Franklyn Browne was my headmaster at one point and I always knew him to be a very astute man.
Well, I finally was brave enough to ask the good gentleman, exactly what transpired, as I shook his hand on Thursday.
Well, Mr. Browne clarified that once he had found Roger, they swam towards Nag’s head and did not even get there on their own, as they were eventually picked up by a boat.
Well I newa!
I heard that the Captain of the boat, left the pier in Basseterre at least three times and turned back to collect late comers.
I heard about a particular lady who when she got there rather late, this time Captain Ponteen refused to turn back this time and the lady let out some expletives.
On the contrary, when she heard that the boat had sunk, she transferred to praise and worship, in thanking God for her spared life.
Speaking of which, I understand that when the boat started to go down, there was a fine mix of expletives and prayers on the boat, as persons resorted to their natural selves, as they faced with the crisis.
I understand that some persons who could not swim were saved and some great swimmers drowned-some pulled under by persons desperate to persevere their lives.
I had a classmate from Bath Village. I think her name was Belinda (have not seen her for years).
I heard that she survived by holding onto a flask.
I heard that someone else survived on bag of breadfruit and worst case scenario, a lady was said to have held on to bag filled with ice….
Well I newa!
I also heard of a story of two persons from my area.
The guy was always a strong swimmer and when he saw the lady from our area in obvious problems and screaming her head off, he offered his assistance.
He told her to hold on to him in a particular manner, but she latched onto his neck in a choke hold.
As he started to lose consciousness, he remembered that he had heard that people who cannot swim, do not like to go under water.
So, he took a dive but guess what?
Our fair lady came back up still clutching to him.
He again beseeched her to hold him in a particular manner, but in her desperation, she maintained a vice like grip on him.
With his strength fading, he dived again and this time tore his shirt in the process.
Last he saw of her, she was clutching to a piece of his shirt…
Sad story.
However, the good news is that out of that, we have more boats; a safer service and improved conditions for sea goers.
There are also several persons and institutions who have made a concerted effort to ensure that more persons on the island, learn to swim.
Among these are: The Red Cross Society; Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams; the SDA Jets Sports Club and Winston Crooke.
All in a bid to ensure that such a tragedy does not repeat itself.
Malcolm MOLLY Simmonds, almost brought tears to my eyes when he stated: ‘Today I am 49 years old.’
An obvious reference to the fact that he started a brand new life on the 1st of August 1970, when so many others perished.
We have a lot to thank God for and may the memory of the Christena and the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, only propel us to seek to do good for the rest of our lives.
That’s the way I see it. How do you see it?

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