The fall and rise of Mark Gonsalves

The moon had set, leaving only stars above as Friday, June 26, 2015, began. Dawn was nearing when Mark Gonsalves, 44, left his apartment near the Newport end of the Pell Bridge and got into his car. Leaning on the gas, he sped onto the span.
He stopped at the apex, some 220 feet above the water.
It was 4:36 a.m.
To the south, Newport Harbor twinkled; north, Narragansett Bay stretched in darkness toward Providence. The air was about 66 degrees but there was no wind. Summer had arrived, a tad cool but nonetheless welcome in a year that had dawned with a historic blizzard.
Gonsalves stepped from his car and went to the north-side railing.
It is about 3 feet high, easy to scale.
Were he to jump, his body would rapidly accelerate, reaching about 81 miles per hour when he hit the surface in a journey lasting just over three seconds. He would cause a splash, but the sight and sound of it would be lost in the night.
Gonsalves jumped.
Finally free, he thought.

Mark Gonsalves at the base of the Pell Bridge. Mark survived a jump off the bridge and tells us his story of redemption.[The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

Abused and taunted, young Mark turns to drugs, alcohol, gang

Born at Newport Hospital in March 1971, Mark T. Gonsalves was the second child of Sara Rose Gonsalves, 22; his biological father, believed to be of Cape Verdean descent, was not present and never would be. The newborn had beautiful blue eyes and dark skin, a combination that would prove both blessing and curse. 
Gonsalves went home to the modest apartment that his mother, brother and stepfather shared in Newport’s Fifth Ward, enclave of Irish immigrants and their descendants who during the 1800s and beyond found work as laborers and staff in Gilded-Age mansions. Sara Rose traced her own ancestry to such an Irish family.
The Gonsalves family worshiped at nearby St. Augustin’s Church, where young Mark attended the parish school. It was there one day, he would later recall, that his stepfather had him called from his second-grade class and beat him for some transgression in the privacy of a school restroom. His screams, he said, echoed through the halls. 
And that was not the only trauma the child, his young brain still developing, endured. At home, the stepfather beat him with a wooden spoon. Another stepfather would later choke-slam and whip him with an extension cord. “The rule of the hand,” he called it.
Sara Rose waited tables at the Viking Hotel and the Newport Navy Enlisted Club. And then she met a sailor, based in Jacksonville, Florida, who was passing through. In 1979, when Mark was 8, she moved with her family to be with him. She took similar work in Florida. Young Mark, a kid with blue eyes and dark skin — a Yankee of mixed racial ancestry — seemed to fit nowhere.
“Black people called me ‘cracker.’ White people called me” the N word, he later recalled.
Peers tried bullying Gonsalves, but he was growing — gaining size and strength and the ability to defend himself, with a stick or two-by-four if need be. He was a good student – sometimes making honor roll, he would later recall. By his early teens, he was working, helping his mother at the base's enlisted club. 
At 15, he began to drink. With booze, you might fit in.
“I just wanted to be cool with everyone,” Gonsalves said.
 At 16, after wrecking his mother’s car, he attempted suicide for the first time.
“I took a bunch of pills because I crashed her only car, which was her only means of transportation to get to work,” he said. “And it's not like we had a couple of family cars. So knowing what it did to her depressed me.”

In an emergency, call 911 

Some three seconds after Gonsalves jumped off the Pell Bridge, he hit the water, apparently feet-first. Into the Bay he went, to what depth will never be known.
And then he surfaced.
An outgoing tide moved him south, back under the Pell Bridge toward Rose Island and the open ocean, where the remains of others have disappeared forever.
Well, f-- I survived, he thought. I want to get the hell out of this water.
The Bay was about 70 degrees, warmer than the air — but Gonsalves, floating on his back with only the tips of his shoes and his face visible, was freezing. He was swallowing water and dipping beneath the surface again and again.
His body shocked, he did not feel pain from injuries that included multiple broken ribs, multiple broken spinal vertebrae, a broken left wrist, blood clots, and lungs damaged from impact and submersion. The water was infecting his lungs, causing pneumonia.
He was terrified of sharks and afraid he would drown.
But no shark found him.
He did not drown.
In that otherworldly state between now and nevermore, he thought that perhaps a dolphin or manta ray or some kindly imaginary creature was keeping him from going under for good.

Sara Rose Gonsalves returned to Rhode Island from Florida with son Mark in 1987, when he was 16. They lived variously in Middletown and Newport.
Gonsalves began hanging out at the Tonomy Hill housing project, where crack cocaine was the preferred high and the Hillside Posse gang ran the streets, hustling at gunpoint and selling drugs brought in from Providence and New York. He earned the nickname “MG,” which some took to mean Mad Guns — guns being one of the items, along with drugs, that he sometimes sold.
His mother begged him to avoid the troublemakers, sometimes trying to physically restrain him from going out.
“Slow down,” she would say. He would later associate her guidance with “Simple Man,” a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“Mama told me when I was young,” the lyrics go, “'Come sit beside me, my only son. And listen closely to what I say … Oh, take your time, don't live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass … And don't forget, son, there is someone up above … And be a simple kind of man. ... Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can.’”
But Gonsalves refused to heed his mother. “I wish I would have listened,” he later said. “I think that might have changed my whole path in life.”
Gonsalves joined the Hillside Posse and first came to the attention of police in late 1988, when he and three others tangled with a 20-year-old sailor in the parking lot of a convenience store on Connell Highway, near the Newport Navy base. During the altercation, at about 12:30 a.m. on that Dec. 6, Gonsalves shot the sailor with a .25-caliber pistol.
The sailor was treated and released from the Naval Hospital. Gonsalves made the pages of The Providence Journal, though not by name, given that he was a juvenile.
“The 17-year-old youth, from Middletown, was charged yesterday with intent to murder,” The Journal wrote on Dec. 8. “He was being held at the Training School in Cranston yesterday afternoon.”
In the autumn of 1989, Gonsalves was released, having concluded that gang life, with its jewelry and sex and fast cars, was for him. He craved excitement and chemical highs. He projected power. During his time at the Training School, he had proved himself with his fists.
He'd been messed with as a kid, but no one would mess with him now.
About a month after leaving the Training School, Gonsalves on Dec. 13, 1989, was arrested for possession of cocaine, a felony. He was now 18, subject to adult law and punishment. Two months later, on Feb. 19, 1990, he was arrested again, for delivery of a controlled substance, also a felony.
Once, Gonsalves had dreamed of becoming a military policeman, of honorably serving his country like the Navy women and men he’d met. When he completed his service, he would become a civilian police officer, on the right side of the law.
Instead, he was headed toward prison. His mental health was deteriorating and he was seeking relief in alcohol and cocaine.
The Pell Bridge at sunrise [The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

Drifting toward death, Mark has a fateful encounter

The temperature in Warwick reached a pleasant 82 degrees on Thursday, June 25, 2015. The day was cooling as evening approached, but conditions were nonetheless conducive for a ride down Narragansett Bay. Dave Poland and Jeff Nichols had recently bought a 26-foot Wellcraft boat — and, with Nichols’ fiancée, Ashley Brophy, on board, they headed out from Warwick Cove. Friends on other vessels joined them, a small flotilla in search of a good time.
The friends moored in Greenwich Cove and passed the evening at McKinley's Waterfront Irish Pub. After last call, they motored back up the cove and anchored off Goddard State Park. At about 3 a.m. on Friday, June 26, the boaters decided to head home.
But Nichols wanted to fish — by the Jamestown Bridge, a productive spot. Nichols can be forceful. He, Brophy and Poland set off for the bridge.
Down the Bay they motored, past islands named Gooseberry, Hope and Despair. When they reached the northern tip of Jamestown, they mistakenly steered east, not west, which would have taken them down the West Passage to Nichols' favored place.
Now, they were bound for the Pell Bridge.
“Do you care if we go to the Newport Bridge?” said Poland, general manager of Grid Iron Ale House and Grille in Warwick.
“I don’t care. Just get me to a fishing spot. I want to fish!” said Nichols.
The boaters killed the motor just south of the center span. Nichols and Poland cast their lines. Brophy went below to sleep.
Dawn was breaking when something disturbed them. It was about 5:30 a.m.
“We heard a moaning,” Poland would later tell police.
Nichols, a plumber, called to his fiancée, a Community College of Rhode Island graduate and certified nurse’s assistant. She came on deck.
“I saw a man floating in the water and he was yelling, ‘Ow,’ ” Brophy told police. “We managed to pull [our] boat up to him.”
The three tried to hoist him to safety, but he was too heavy.

As her son’s criminal record lengthened and Gonsalves served sentences at the Adult Correctional Institutions and elsewhere that eventually totaled a dozen years, Sara Rose waited tables, tended bar, owned a produce business and served as an accountant. She was good with numbers and good to her son, who sometimes stayed with her. Good with finances, she bought a house.

In October 1991, one of Gonsalves’ Hillside Posse buddies, Brent Davis, 20, was killed in New Bedford in what police called a drug-related turf war. Gonsalves was selling drugs in Virginia when his mother phoned to tell him that his good friend was dead.

“It hurt, but I don’t remember crying,” he said. “It was like my emotions were turned off. I had no emotions.”

Perhaps, he would later think, the traumas he'd endured had desensitized him. The childhood abuse. The blows to the skull during fights. The car crash when he was about 3 in which his head had struck the windshield with enough force to shatter the glass.

Between prison terms in the 1990s, Gonsalves had fathered four children, with two different women. He did not know and would not learn until much later that he had a fifth child: a daughter born of a hookup with a teenage girl before he left Florida in 1987 who had been put up for adoption and raised by a family in Texas.

By 2005, when Gonsalves was 33, it was all becoming too much.

“I was ashamed of myself,” he said.

For the second time in his life, he attempted suicide, with an overdose of pills.

As Gonsalves had floated, thinking some creature might have saved him, he looked up at the Pell Bridge, its lights glittering.
Why hasn’t someone seen my car? he wondered. No one’s in it. Why haven’t they called the police?
He did not, at first, see the Wellcraft 26 or the woman and two men aboard. But they saw him.
Nichols jumped in and brought Gonsalves to the back of the boat, where he and Poland managed to get him onto the transom and from there, struggling, onto a seat.
“I asked him if he jumped off the bridge,” Brophy told police. “He said ‘yes.’ Then he kept saying, ‘I’m so cold.’”
Brophy called 911, which sent the call to the Coast Guard, which advised the boaters that help was on the way.
Gonsalves was fading.
“I had to keep yelling to keep him awake,” Brophy told police.
It was not enough. Brophy determined that his heart was arresting.
She administered CPR. Gonsalves screamed from the force on his broken ribs and arched his broken back in reflexive protest, then collapsed onto the seat. His heart arrested once more. They could not wait for the Coast Guard.
Brophy administered CPR again, three or four times in total, as Poland steered the boat to the nearest place he knew had docking: Fort Adams, built to protect the early republic and now home of the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals.

Sara Rose was the one person who loved Gonsalves unconditionally.
She took no pride in his behaviors, but she believed in forgiveness and redemption and second and third chances, and she saw goodness in her son’s heart that others could not. She let him live with her when he needed a place, and she was a sort of guardian angel to his three youngest children, who lived in Rhode Island. One, his lastborn, lived with her for several years.
Gonsalves, in turn, loved his mother deeply. When Sara Rose, a cancer survivor, began to have difficulty speaking in 2013, he worried.
When her motor skills started to decline, doctors diagnosed dementia and ALS, an incurable disease that typically progresses through increasing incapacitation to wordless death.
Gonsalves wept when he learned the diagnosis. His mother moved to Ohio to live with a friend, but the friend could not care for her after she fell and broke both wrists. Back in Rhode Island, Mark took responsibility for her, feeding and bathing her and keeping a watchful eye.
Sara Rose’s decline was rapid. Even with her son’s help, she became unable to live alone, so she sold her house, the only one she had ever owned, and moved into an independent-living complex in Portsmouth. That proved untenable. She had trouble swallowing food and medications and she was losing weight. She was forgetting to shut off the stove and otherwise endangering herself.
“There was just nothing I could do unless I sat there with her 24 hours a day,” Gonsalves said. “And even with that, I had no medical knowledge.”
Gonsalves knew his mother belonged in a nursing home, but she despised the notion. On a visit to the Newport Hospital emergency room, he talked privately to a doctor.
She can’t live by herself anymore, he said. He hated saying it, but it was true.
Sara Rose was discharged to Heatherwood Rehabilitation & Health Care Center on Bellevue Avenue, near mansions where Irish ancestors had served Gilded Age elites. Against medical advice, Gonsalves would push her in a wheelchair on walks down the fabled boulevard.
You’re taking me home now, aren’t you? she would say at the end of a visit. Please take me with you.
Gonsalves would be crushed, again.
The Pell Bridge at night [The Providence Journal/Tom Murphy]

'God, please just let me live': Redemption proves elusive

If so inclined, one could take the January 2015 blizzard that punished Rhode Island as a sign the New Year would be bleak. For Sara Rose, it already was. Her ALS was gaining.
Her son was hurting, too.
Despite his troubles, Gonsalves, following his mother’s example, had developed a work ethic. Among other jobs, he had been a barber and a bouncer and a well-paid member of a carpenters union. He was working a construction job in June 2015 when his boss let him go. The boss said he could not have a convicted felon on the payroll.
Depressed, Gonsalves performed a mental calculation. His mother would soon be gone — and for years, what he had brought his partners and children? Chaos and hurt.
They’ll grieve my loss, he’d concluded, but eventually they will move on. As long as I remain in their lives, I will only do more harm.
One night in the middle of June, Gonsalves drove with his girlfriend to the top of the Pell Bridge. She talked him back into the car.
She was sleeping when he slipped out of their apartment in the predawn hours of June 26.
Finally, Gonsalves would be free.

Rescue personnel from the Newport Fire Department reached Fort Adams at 5:53 a.m. on June 26, according to the department record.
“Report of pt found in water near center span of Newport Bridge,” the record states, using the abbreviation pt for patient. “Boaters pulled pt from water, attempted CPR as needed. Pt was found supine on back seat/bench of boat. Cleared pt of most clothes that were wet. Placed in C-collar then on long board.”
“Groaning in pain,” a Newport police officer wrote.
Gonsalves was transferred to an ambulance, where rescuers placed warm packs on him and administered other care. “Pt passed in & out,” their report states.
At 6:21 a.m., Gonsalves arrived at Newport Hospital’s emergency department.
The Rhode Island State Police, meanwhile, had contacted Newport police regarding an unoccupied vehicle at the top of the Pell Bridge that a motorist reported spotting at 4:45 a.m. A review of video footage revealed that it had been abandoned at 4:36 a.m. The car was towed. Police traced it to Gonsalves.
Newport Hospital staff stabilized Gonsalves but could do no more than that. He needed Rhode Island Hospital, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center.
He arrived there by ambulance at 10:27 a.m.

Ashley Brophy, Dave Poland and Jeff Nichols steered their boat home to Warwick. 
“Still in shock that we found a man floating, alive, severely injured, but alive this morning under the Newport bridge,” Brophy wrote on her Facebook page later on June 26. “Apparently he jumped and survived. Jeff jumped in and Dave helped pull him in the boat. Absolutely insane.”
A friend commented: “Used to deal with that on an everyday basis when I was in the coast guard. It's a miracle that he was still alive and that u guys found him.”
Wrote another: “Holy s*** glad you guys were there, God uses angels on earth, that was [you] to this guy.”
“Wow, you were at that time for a reason,” wrote another.
“God bless you and Jeff for rescuing him!!” wrote another. “Hope he pulls thru and gets the help he needs.”
“A blessed man is he,” wrote still another. “It was not his time. You were at the right place at the right time.”
But another friend was not optimistic. “Hope he survives,” he wrote. “I found a hunter in woods who was paralyzed from falling out of [a] tree. He died 2 days later.”

One hour and one minute after arriving at the Rhode Island Hospital emergency department, Gonsalves was transferred to Trauma Intensive Care. Four days later, he went to Medical Intensive Care, where he was placed into an induced coma and connected to an ECMO system — extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which provides respiratory and cardiac support for patients whose lungs and hearts are unable to properly sustain life.
On July 6, Gonsalves was brought out of the coma. Two days later, his organs recovering, he was removed from ECMO.
He would recall little from the fog that was the next few days, but one certain memory is of a visit by his youngest child, son Jhamal, who was 21 at the time.
“I remember him crying, holding my hand, saying, ‘Dad, don't ever do anything like that again,” Gonsalves said.
“And I remember thinking: God, please just let me live.

Discharged from Rhode Island Hospital on July 30, Gonsalves traveled by ambulance to Newport Hospital’s Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center, where health-care professionals would help restore mobility and motor functions.
A mile and a half away, at Heatherwood Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, Sara Rose lay on her deathbed. On Aug. 5, Vanderbilt staff brought him to see her. She could not speak.
“Mom, it’s Mark,” Gonsalves said. “It’s your son.”
Gonsalves held her hand.
His mother squeezed his.
The next day, she died. She was 66.
Gonsalves attended her service, on Aug. 13 at Memorial Funeral Home on Broadway in Newport. Family and friends penned remembrances on the home’s Tribute Wall.
“Sara was a beautiful person inside and out with a heart of gold,” wrote one.
“She was a pleasure to be around, her sense of humor always kept me laughing, and her smile was contagious!” wrote another.
Wrote a counselor at the school that Mark’s children in Rhode Island had attended: “I will always remember Sara as a Grandmother who met with me on countless occasions on behalf of her grandchildren. She wanted them to be successful in life and tried so hard to help them.”
Photographs of Sara Rose were scarce. The funeral home posted one of her holding her dog.
Gonsalves would make it the cover photo of his Facebook page.

In a Hollywood scripting of Gonsalves’ life, he would be discharged from rehabilitation having experienced an epiphany. Thankful to be alive, believing in miracles, he would mend fences and comfort others dwelling in the dark place where he had been. He would inspire, his story perhaps saving lives.
The real script: About a month after leaving Vanderbilt, Gonsalves returned to alcohol and cocaine. On Jan. 3, 2017, he was arrested and sent back to the ACI for violation of a no-contact order with a girlfriend following a domestic disturbance. She was back in his life willingly, but the order had not been removed from the books.
Cut to: Gonsalves has his last drink and high before going behind bars again.
He was done with the booze and the drugs. He was clean. 
He had finally achieved “clarity,” as he would later describe it.
Nine months later, in October 2017, Gonsalves was released from the ACI on the condition that he enroll in a 90-day recovery-based shelter program run by Amos House. With no place to sleep initially, he went first to Harrington Hall, the state-run men’s homeless shelter in Cranston.
Enter: The epiphany, belatedly.
“I remember standing in line,” Gonsalves recalled, “and there were probably about 40 bookbags lined up, and I remember thinking: What the hell? I’m 46 years old. This is where my decision-making has brought me, to standing in line at a shelter with two pairs of jeans and a couple of sweatshirts.
He stayed four days, guarding himself against assault and thievery. He kept headphones on, he said, “to block everything out.”
Mark Gonsalves, center, gets a hug from Jeff Nichols and Ashley Brophy on Dec. 4, in their first meeting since Nichols, Brophy and friend Dave Poland pulled Gonsalves from Narragansett Bay after he jumped off the Pell Bridge in June 2015. [The Providence Journal / Kris Craig]

A rising sense of purpose, and an emotional reunion

At Amos House, Gonsalves used the 90-day program “to develop the skills and the resources to remain drug- and alcohol-free,” Amos president and CEO Eileen Hayes said.

He also became “a diligent student in our culinary program,” Hayes said, “always willing to go the extra mile to help out in our soup kitchen as well as in our catering events. As if his plate was not full enough, Mark enrolled in college classes with the Reentry Campus.”

That came thanks to James Monteiro, who manages Reentry Campus, which provides presently and previously incarcerated people “an affordable pathway to accredited post-secondary educations and certification programs.” Education and training for good jobs, that is. Gonsalves today is enrolled in college-preparation courses at Roger Williams University. One of his ambitions is to become a social worker or counselor.

Setting and meeting goals was critical, and Gonsalves wrote his in a notebook, which he has kept to this day. Among his short-term goals: "Stay clean — 1 day at a time," "make meetings," "volunteer as much as possible," "enroll in college courses" and "last but by no means least: see kids regularly."

On his long-term list: "Stay clean — 1 day at a time," "continue meetings regularly," "complete schooling" and "last but by no means least: be a simple man."

And other people have played leading roles in the rise of Mark Gonsalves. A psychiatrist, a therapist and friends old and new.

Anthony Thigpen — like Monteiro, a recovered addict who spent years in prison before his own redemption — stands center stage. A community health worker with the Transitions Clinic at the Lifespan Community Health Institute in South Providence, Thigpen connected Gonsalves to first-rate mental and physical health care. He helped arrange federal disability payments. He listened. He encouraged. He took Gonsalves’ call at any hour, and still will.

Like Monteiro, he provided living testament to the possible.

Eventually, “Mark graduated from our program and moved to a sober house with a part-time job with Amos House on an extended internship funded through a Department of Labor grant,” said Hayes. Today, he is also employed at a major concert venue in southern New England, with responsibility for the personal security of the guest artists. He leads a Narcotics Anonymous group at Amos House. He has banked some of his income and is saving for a truck. He intends to find his own apartment.

Monteiro met him at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. “I heard him sharing and I liked his message,” Monteiro said. “Usually, you can see when somebody’s talking just from remote memory and when somebody’s actually talking from their heart. The way Mark conveys his story, he’s speaking from experience. That’s from his heart. And that’s what stood out for me.

“The change that’s happening in him is genuine.”

Gonsalves, now 47, made amends to his children.

Learning through a Facebook connection and a phone call that he was the biological father of Ashlea, a 30-year-old woman living in Texas, Gonsalves had reached out to her before his suicide attempt. A registered nurse — and now mother of a toddler, making Gonsalves a grandfather — she flew to Rhode Island to meet him in 2015. They have remained in close contact since. Gonsalves also has developed a relationship with Marcus, his 24-year-old son who lives in Maryland.

Geography provided better opportunity for rapprochement with his three children who live locally: Mark, 27, a Providence resident who delivers pizzas; Khayla, 24, a Dunkin' Donuts employee who lives with her mother in Portsmouth; and Jhamal, 22, a Portsmouth resident who works at Newport Shipyard and is a rising star on the New England motocross circuit.

Khayla and Jhamal discussed their dad recently at their mother’s house. Gonsalves was present.

“I feel like since Nana passed away, our relationship grew really a lot stronger,” Khayla said.

“We talk almost every day and hang out more. It’s definitely a better relationship.”

“The same here, too,” said Jhamal. “Growing up, I didn’t even really talk to him that much. Now our bond is quite different.”

On his regular trips to Aquidneck Island, Gonsalves stops by the Dunkin' Donuts where his daughter works, sometimes passing hours there. Khayla lives with Type 1 diabetes, a potentially life-threatening disease requiring daily insulin that was diagnosed when she went into a diabetic coma several years ago. She finds support in her father, she said.

Gonsalves also sees Jhamal on Aquidneck Island — and at his son’s motocross races at tracks around New England. Fascinated by cars and motorcycles from a young age, like his dad, Jhamal was the fall 2018 NESC Motocross champion in the 450C category. It was his first year of formally racing.

“I’m so proud of them,” Gonsalves said.

This being Rhode Island, with its negligible degrees of separation, it was perhaps inevitable that Ashley Brophy learned from a friend of a friend at Rhode Island Hospital that Gonsalves had lived. But she, Jeff Nichols and Dave Poland had not seen him since June 26, 2015.

Poland found Gonsalves on Facebook in September 2018, and following that, Brophy spoke with him at length by phone. The three boaters and the man they saved wanted to see each other again. They reunited on Dec. 4 at The Providence Journal.

Tears flowed. Hugs were exchanged, stories told; luck and the hand of a higher power were among the topics. The memory of Sara Rose Gonsalves, too.

After an hour or so, the four went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. There, they posed for a photograph that Brophy posted on her Facebook page.

“So after 3 years a long awaited reunion happened,” she wrote. “3 summers ago Dave Poland Jeff Nichols and i found a man floating almost lifeless under the Newport Bridge. We had been in contact and wanted to meet him and tonight we did. I didn’t quite know what to expect or feel. But it was awesome.

“He is actually a very inspiring and genuine man who has turned his life around and is using his second chance to help others. It was a super humbling experience. Mark, it was great meeting you and look forward to a new friendship among all of us. Keep up the positivity and moving forward. Great night tonight. God is good.”

Mark Gonsalves lives with daily pain from the injuries he suffered in his fall, but he manages. He carries sadness, at the harm he caused others years ago, and for the manner and year in which his mother died.

“She never got to see me get it, finally,” he said. “To become a man.”

A simple kind of man, as Lynyrd Skynyrd sang.

After a visit last autumn to Goat Island, where he looked up at the Pell Bridge, rising over a sparking Bay, Gonsalves reflected on why he, a person who the odds say should not be here, is.

“It’s all making sense to me now,” he said. “I believe in faith and God’s plan.”