He carries these pictures with him everywhere he goes. It reminds him that every day is a day for giving thanks!
The story has been told before, even written up in a chapter in the book, Pirates Aboard!, but when I sat down with him recently, I heard a different version. Details I didn't know, lessons learned that I didn’t realize and pictures I hadn't seen. There is a message in the story. It is a story of compassion and grace. Being thankful. It was a wake up call that changed his life.
I was invited to go with Brad on a sailing trip in Tobago Cays, about 30 miles north of Grenada, but I had to pass. He decided to go alone. I have often wondered what the outcome would have been if I’d gone. It’s been 11 years.
Seven days into the trip, alone on the Beneteau 46 he’d chartered, three to four men wearing hoods and masks and carrying guns boarded his boat about 10:00 in the evening. He didn’t see their faces and couldn’t identify them and wasn’t even certain how many there were. He gave them his money and didn’t resist but they argued amongst themselves and shot him anyway. The first bullet went through his left arm and into his body puncturing his lung, kidney, liver and diaphragm. They disabled the radio and phone. The second shot was fired point blank at the base of his skull and he was left to die. This is where his story begins. Brad later gave me a copy of the Pirates Aboard! book and signed it, “God’s classroom of character building.” Indeed.
Miraculously, Brad awoke after the second gunshot and was still alive. He was in pretty bad shape but managed to drag himself on deck and discovered the tender was still attached to the boat so he climbed into it and headed to a nearby, mostly, unlit island. And so began a bizarre and lengthy version of island hopping. Calls for help went out through the communities and Brad was ferried by dinghy to a bigger boat that had a doctor, who then motored to a bigger island, Union Island, where he was taken by truck to a clinic, who then sent him to an airstrip, so he could catch a ride on a plane, to take him to a bigger island, St. Vincent, where he could finally be stabilized, and he was then hospitalized for 36 hours before being flown back to the USA with two bullets still in him.
It took approximately 5 hours to reach the hospital in St. Vincent and it was through no small effort of the locals. You see, a sailor being shot by pirates was unheard of and the locals took it personally. The transfer from Union Island to St. Vincent alone was considered a dangerous night time rescue mission. The landing strip at Union Island had no lights and night landings were not permitted because of a hill at the end of the runway. So several people drove to the top of the hill and used their headlights to mark the hill so the plane could land. The volunteer pilot of the Mustique Airways plane was Jonathan Palmer, the owner and CEO of the airline. And as for Brad’s plane trip home, his father, desperate to make sure Brad received the best care, charged the LearJet charter on his credit card! Fortunately, insurance reimbursed him.
Brad's injuries included damage to Willis’ Circle, which joins together the four major blood vessels that supply blood to the brain and one of the vessels remains shut down to this day. Several doctors have told him this damage alone should have caused a stroke. His only long term issue is a loss of hearing in one ear. That, and the fact that both bullets are still in him.
The police caught the men who shot Brad and apparently beat the crap out of them. Brad flew back for the trial and saw their faces for the first time. They were in their 20s and wouldn’t look at him. The men were acquitted due to their treatment by the police but Brad has no animosity towards them. His life had been drifting off course but the attack was a wake up call. He calls it a warning shot.
|The bench outside the court house at the trial|
Brad is my best friend and one hell of a role model. He is a picture I carry in my head to remind me to give thanks. What pictures do you carry?