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Today I was ashamed of Trinidad and Tobago

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January 14, 2010 by Fensic

I cannot tell if I have ever before been ashamed of being from Trinidad and Tobago or the actions of people connected to T&T. Not when some Trini makes the world stage for criminal acts. Not when some police officer leaves his police car tuh go in some nearby bushes tuh pee and ah tief jump in the car and gorn and the story get plastered all over the world. Not when they arrested the West Indians including a Trini for plotting to blow up Kennedy Airport in New York. Not when we play shit in football and get beat by teams we supposed tuh trounce. Not when Bakr and he BBFs try to overthrow the government. Not even when Martin Joseph step out of his parallel universe and talk dotishness. I am trying really hard but I just cannot find any occasion, event or person that made me feel ashamed of Trinidad and Tobago.

Until today.

I spent hours watching unfolding Haitian tragedy, stupefied and horrified by many of the scenes of death and destruction that I saw. An 11 year young girl trapped under a collapsed building screaming for help while a group of badly equipped Haitians tried to figure out how to get her out. She was trapped by one of her legs and they did not have the heavy equipment to lift debris off of her so they were contemplating amputating her leg but they didn’t have a supply of blood to stabilize her. The sight of one of them wielding a hacksaw caused me to shiver. A camera lowered to where she was trapped could only show the little girl from the back so it was only when she turned her head up and looked back did you see her beautiful face and her big dark brown eyes. I don’t know if they were able to rescue her and save her leg. There was another scene of a 15 day old baby with a head wound. Her father was running down the street with her cradled in his arms looking for help. You couldn’t see her all bundled up in the blankets. Her mother died during the earthquake.

I could go on and on with stories of horror and woe.

This morning a friend asked my how come the Caribbean islands were missing from the list of countries rushing to aid Haiti? That got me thinking and I had what I thought was a plausible excuse – the countries are in bad shape themselves, they’re not good at organizing and moving swiftly but doh worry by the end of today, aid  from T&T will have reached Haiti. So when I tuned into the evening news in Trinidad and Tobago I was thinking Haiti, Haiti, Haiti. Then I saw the news.

It started with local seismologists talking about the certainty of T&T being hit by a catastrophic earthquake because it sits next to or atop a major fault in the region. Another ‘expert’ talked about earthquakes striking every 100 years and the last one to hit T&T was over 100 years ago. then they talked about T&T not being prepared. I admit I was very surprised. Yeah all that most likely is true but is now the time fuh dat? Since I was on Facebook liming with other Trinis watching and commenting on the news I expressed my surprise at these lead-off stories. Where were the stories about the devastation unfolding in Haiti? Where was the story about Trinidad and Tobago’s effort to help? They rehashed the story from last night when Manning pledged 1 million US to Haiti but didn’t explain what that meant in terms of immediate help. Then it came. News about the Caricom response.

Caricom is sending a fact finding mission to Haiti.

I was blown away. Fact finding mission? People are dying in the streets and under buildings and the Caribbean islands sending a fact finding mission? How this mission getting there? It flying in? The damn airspace over Haiti is filled with planes from countries far and near, okay not the ‘other Caribbean islands near’ but from places on the other side of the world even. The Trinidad and Tobago Fire Services has something called the Urban Search and Rescue Unit so I asked why not dispatch some of those units to Haiti. I was told that plans had to be made before anybody was sent. So I asked if that logic meant that there should be no country in Haiti offering help at this moment. I was asked where the plane would land to which I responded by asking how far from Haiti is Jamaica. Jamaica drug and gun runners seem to be able to get to and from Haiti fairly easily. Maybe I should have said they will land the same place the fact finding mission will land.

The few pictures shown of the earthquake gave the sense that it was over and done. People dead and that was it. Nothing showed a sense of urgency, the sense of hopelessness and increasing desperation starting to take over the Haitians. I was terribly disappointed. Everyone sensed my increasing frustration and budding anger at the ‘laissez faire’, unaware-of-what-really-happening style being exhibited. Somebody said just because it eh on CNN eh mean the Caribbean eh helping so I challenged them to prove the Caribbean had supplied help. No response. Then someone listed the typical litany of shortcomings afflicting T&T. I felt as if I was listening to a self absorbed kid worried about who was going to make him dinner that he would starve while his mother lay dying.

I left the news early as I couldn’t take any more. Sure there were stories of unabated murders in Trinidad, the total is north of 17 for the year already. A boy under 10 was shot multiple times and killed today but I dunno, maybe it was just me but the way I see it, for the next several days the entire world’s focus should be on helping Haiti. I did not see that.

Today I was ashamed of not just T&T but the entire Caribbean.

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January 2010
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