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Interview of Therold Prudent, Author of "Glory Days and Tragedy"
It is a great pleasure to have Therold Prudent with us today. He has written a thought-provoking book that gives us a glimpse of what life can be like when tragedy strikes a small community. Welcome to Reader Views.
Irene: Please give us a summary of your Therold book.
Therold: Synopsis “Glory Days and Tragedy” is the untold story of what life was really like growing up in a small Caribbean town called Gros Islet and the heartbreaking tragedy that followed at sea. The book focuses directly on childhood innocence and the meaning of friendship in its purest form, while refusing to ignore the existence of social ignorance and religious bigotry that for the most part influenced our early perceptions of right and wrong. However, as the story grows to paint a colorful picture of a way of life unknown in many developed countries and societies, it gradually brings into sharp focus the collective emotions of a divided community after a tragedy at sea strikes. Six youths from the community of Gros Islet are lost at sea.
Irene: You talk about social ignorance and religious bigotry. However, it is “normal” in their society. I understand you that leaving the island and interacting with other cultures means life can be different. Am I correct in assuming this?
Therold: Not at all. To broaden my understanding of the world and strengthen my sense of personal freedom while leaving the island and interacting with other cultures, it should be noted that the process of freeing my mind from ignorance and religious fanaticism began in St. Lucia. I have a very intelligent mother who never accepted what society gave her. She was a social rebel in every sense. In fact, in the early days when women in St. Lucia stayed away from politics and other social and religious issues and were too afraid to speak their minds, my mother was never afraid to speak up. He instilled in us from childhood the virtues of seeking the truth and standing up for our principles even when the majority would laugh at them.
I understood then, as I understand today, that I should always respect the religious and political beliefs of others, no matter how far from my own. However, having said that I do not want to leave you with the impression that social ignorance and religious bigotry exist in Saint Lucia today. We have come a long way as a nation. We have many educated youth in the country who have shown that we can think for ourselves.
Irene: What inspired you to write this book?
Therold: The painful nature of that tragedy, Gros Islet, my love for its people and a lifelong desire to put our little island of Saint Lucia on the world stage.
Irene: St Lucia is on stage – but as a tourist attraction. You are teaching the reader about the lives of local residents. What reactions have you had from locals to your book?
Therold: I have been very happy with the local reaction to my book. Judging by the many who have taken the time to contact me personally after reading the book, the general feeling is that I’ve really put together a very compelling story that’s not just about the tragedy that happened, but the memories that have been forgotten. Life was like St. Lucia in the past. Also, if I return for a moment to your statement that “St. Lucia is on stage- but as a tourist attraction”, I have to say that I agree. However, is that all there is to St. Lucia?
Of course not! And so, for that very reason I have decided to embark on a path to teach the world that Saint Lucia is not just about sun, fun, rum, casino gambling and calypso. In fact, while it is true that the tourism industry plays an important role economically, the world should also recognize that there is an indigenous community with a very interesting history and unique lifestyle. As Saint Lucians there is more to us than meets the eye of the tourist. Our local customs and traditions outweigh the natural and physical beauty of our island.
Irene: There’s a lot of talk these days because Frey’s book is nonfiction with some, shall we say, creative additions admittedly. Your book is considered non-fiction and is based on a true story. How much creativity do you let enter your book?
Therold: Absolutely not! What the reader gets in my book “Glory Days and Tragedy” is an honest and clear reconstruction of a factual series of events by an author who spent years researching and piecing together the story. The focus of my goal was not to embellish any part of my book, but to use my God-given abilities to write in a clear, precise, and highly descriptive manner to capture the reader’s interest. Moreover, unlike Mr. Frey, who could not provide any sources to substantiate some of his claims, I have a legend of living persons in the beautiful island of St. Lucia that will undoubtedly confirm the authenticity of “Glory Days and Tragedy.” I hope Oprah is noticing (laughs). There are some real heart-wrenching life stories out there, not fictions of the author’s imagination.
Irene: How many of the six young men who went to sea survived the ordeal? And what emotional state are they in now?
Therold: Of the six young men who went to sea, only one survived. His name is Kennedy Philip, a young man I am proud to call my friend. After weeks at sea, his boat landed in the South American country of Colombia. Among the deceased are his brother George and first cousin Perry. Today, although the memories of the events of nearly 20 years ago are still painfully fresh in his mind, Kennedy has been able to rebuild his life by the grace of God.
IRENE: How much information was Kennedy able to give you about the test?
Therold: Apart from my account of what happened ashore during the ordeal, the full story of what really happened at sea and later on the Columbia comes from Kennedy himself. At this point I must mention a very good friend named Stanislaus “Nurgero” Fulchure. He is also a personal friend of Kennedy who attempted a series of rescue missions at sea during the ordeal. In the summer of 1994, around the time I decided to start work on the book, I was relying heavily on “Nurgero” to provide an account of what happened on the coast during the ordeal.
Irene: The story is very near and dear to you. Did you have to write this book as part of your own grieving process over the loss of a close friend?
Therold: Yes I did. I believed in my childhood friend (George) who died in that tragedy. Had I not tried to write the story, the memory of him and the other children who died at sea would have been completely forgotten. I have pledged to use some of the proceeds from the book to set up a memorial for the children. I know the road ahead will be very bumpy, but I am a small but tough guy who knows how to keep his word and make things happen.
Irene: What was the main belief of the islanders when the children did not return within a certain time frame?
Therold: Not many people knew what happened. In fact, the news didn’t fully break until Saturday afternoon, almost a full day after the boys had left for the beach. Apart from “Nurgero” and a few close friends, most people were kept in the dark. However, by the time the news reached the streets around 4 or 5 pm, the streets were already thronged. At first he was in complete disbelief, but this would all change.
Irene: And, how did they react?
Therold: I saw grown men with tears in their eyes, which inspired me a lot as a teenager. Afterward, everyone shared a story to share about their personal experiences with each child. I think that kind of humble atmosphere is what brought the community together and helped sustain it throughout the ordeal.
Irene: Did they give up on the boys’ return?
Therold: Oh boy! As days went by, I wouldn’t say they gave up on the kids. It was probably the saddest time I’ve ever experienced on the island and in Gros Islet City in particular. But with no signs of their eventual return, there were many who seemed to gradually accept the possibility that children would die at sea.
IRENE: When Kennedy returned to St. Lucia after his ordeal, what was the local reaction?
Therold: Kennedy’s return to St. Lucia was like a celebration for a hero. A large number of people flocked to the airport to witness his grand entry to the island. I was not present at the airport that evening, but the next morning I was one of the lucky few to sit alone with him. To this day, that moment still resonates in my mind. As if it were yesterday, I can still see Kennedy’s thin frame and the paleness on his face as he walked up to greet me for the first time since the ordeal.
Irene: Your country is Saint Lucia. Where do you live now and what inspired you to leave?
Therold: Although St. Lucia has always been home to me, I live in a very quiet and beautiful town in Queens, New York called Laurelton. I consider it my home away from home. My main reason for leaving was to pursue a lifelong goal of educating myself. I have quietly accomplished that goal, and so have turned my attention to conquering another passion called professional writing.
Irene: There is a lot of belief in spirits and mysticism in many Caribbean countries. Tell us about some beliefs and how they are passed down from generation to generation.
Therold: (Laughs) I don’t know how to answer that question. However, I must point out that where Saint Lucia is concerned (when compared to countries like Haiti); Belief in spirits and mysticism is not a widely accepted norm or religion in our society. Now this is not to say that Saint Lucia does not have some people who strongly believe in spirits and mysticism. Instead, what I’m saying is that those who do are usually very secretive about it. Therefore, it would be very difficult for me to explain how those who believed in it were able to pass it down from generation to generation.
Irene: Thank you very much, Thorold. I find this conversation fascinating and would love to have more time to chat with you. However, we must end for now. I hope we have given you a glimpse of you and your book. Is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you or your book “Glory Days and Tragedy”?
Therold: I really enjoyed this interview and the opportunity to talk about my book and beloved country. Definitely glad. thank you
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