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2019 Word on the Street Halifax Schedule

WoTS Halifax Festival Line-Up Updates as of September 1st.

Life Stories

12:00 PM - 12:50 PM

Vernon Theriault – Westray: My Journey from Darkness to Light

Vernon Theriault was off shift when the Westray mine exploded in 1992, killing twenty-six men in Plymouth, Nova Scotia. Theriault took part in the perilous rescue operation that followed, as the small community hoped against hope that survivors would be found. As the magnitude of Westray took hold, Theriault found himself struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and nightmares. When he tried to re-educate himself for another line of work, he discovered that he was both illiterate and dyslexic. Theriault found new purpose when he became part of a labour movement that successfully lobbied the federal government to bring in a worker-safety law that became known as the Westray Bill.Theriault collaborated with his cousin Marjorie Coady to write this book, which contains colour photographs as well as excerpts from the report of a judicial inquiry that called Westray “an accident waiting to happen.” Theriault describes what it was like to work underground in the mine and takes readers through the harrowing rescue, which recovered fifteen of the twenty-six bodies. Theriault openly discusses his complicated journey in this straightforward, simply written memoir, which begins with the promise of a good job with good pay at Westray.

My story is about a coal mine in Plymouth, N.S., Canada. May 9/92 there was an explosion that rocked the community at 5:18 am killing twenty-six co-workers. I’ve just lift ten hours before the explosion happed, I was working an overtime shift (May 8/92 8:00 am to 8:00 pm). May 9/92 my regular shift started at 8:00 am, around 10:00 am that morning I was going underground as bare face rescuer. No sleep for five days, my last rescue shift at Westray followed me home. Issues that I deal with, Nightmares, Survivor’s Guilt and PTSD. Rehabilitation after all my appeals with WCB, I was appointed a counselor to visited my home March 1993. My gold was to try to Educate myself, but known it was going to be hard. Because I couldn’t read or write, illiteracy. 1994 receive the Medal of Bravery. 1995 learn that I had dyslexic. March 1997 seniority back at Trenton Car Works, hired June 1981, lay-off 1986. 1998 joined the local union (United Steelworkers). 1999 asked by our local union to go to Ottawa, for USW. National Policy Conference in Ottawa. 2000, 2002, and 2003 seeking Justice, lobbying the Lawmakers in Ottawa. 2003 big day came, Westray Bill, passed into law. I started working on my book 2002, sixteen years later after putting words on tapes, paper. 2014 Marjorie Coady (my cousin) helped me write my book, Nimbus Published my book July 2018. This story everyone ought to know told in the simple words of the man who lived it, me! (Vernon Theriault)


Allison Watson – Transplanted: My Cystic Fibrosis Double Lung Transplant Story

When Allison Watson awoke that day, she knew she was in a hospital bed. That’s all. She had no idea how much time had passed since she had seen her family. When she tried to focus, her vision was blurry, and when she tried to wave someone down, she became so exhausted she thought she was dying. Hours later, when Watson was able to communicate, she asked a nurse if the news was good or bad. “It’s good news,” the nurse replied. “You had your lung transplant four days ago.”

About 4,100 people in Canada have cystic fibrosis, and many are living longer today, thanks, in part, to transplants. CF mainly affects the digestive system and lungs, and there is no cure. In this candid memoir, Watson describes living with the disease and her life-altering surgery in 2014. Watson and her sister, Amy, both grew up with CF, and Allison had always believed that Amy would be the one to get a transplant first. The decision to undergo surgery was not easy. Nor was the road to full recovery. In this book, Watson, who cycled across Canada with her brother in 2008 to raise awareness of CF, describes her journey.

Allison Watson was born with cystic fibrosis. After undergoing a double lung transplant and subsequently getting post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, she hopes her days of medical turmoil are in her past. Allison has a BSc in biology and recreational therapy from Dalhousie University. She loves board games, reading, and hiking.



Garry Leech – Ghosts Within: Journeying Through PTSD

What are the long-term psychological costs of violence and war? Journalist Garry Leech draws from his experiences as a war correspondent, his ongoing personal struggle with PTSD and the latest research on this mental illness to provide a powerful and vivid answer to this question. For thirteen years, Leech worked in Colombia’s rural conflict zones where he experienced combat, witnessed massacre sites and was held captive by armed groups. This raw account of his journey from war on the battlefield to an internal, psychological war at home illustrates how those who work with traumatized populations can themselves be impacted by trauma.

Leech removes some of the stigmas, fears and ignorance related to PTSD in particular, and mental illness in general, by shedding light on a largely invisible illness that mostly manifests itself behind the closed doors of our homes. Ultimately, the book uses a journalist’s journey through PTSD to provide a message of hope for all those who suffer from this illness.

Garry Leech is an independent journalist and author who has worked in Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela and the West Bank over the past two decades. He is the author of numerous books and his articles have been published in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin America. Garry also teaches international politics at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada.