'Fada God, a wah dis?'

'Fada God, a wah dis?'


Sunday, October 25, 2020

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The young men who risked their lives and formed a human chain to rescue a 12-year-old girl from almost certain death in the Sandy Gully are to be celebrated and thanked for the enormous lift in spirit and hope that they gave the nation on the eve of the national heroes' holiday. I had picked up the story on radio that evening and caught the middle of a live interview with the young heroes who had earlier demonstrated the utmost compassion and courage to save a life threatened by the raging floodwaters attempting to wash her down the gully and into Kingston's harbour. The young spoke with clarity and assuredness, modesty and selflessness, totally aware of the great risk they had taken, but sure of themselves and their instant calling to jump into the gully to save a life of someone they didn't even know.

I felt it a privilege to listen to them speak. Each one brushed off any thought of praise or credit with ease and comfort. This was a world of superheroes, Superman, Captain Marvel, Spiderman, all brought down to mere human beings, youth from 'across the bridge', bonding together in an act of sheer bravery, selflessness, creativity, and love, without a thought more than here is a little girl who is about to die and it is in our power to save her.

The young men themselves referred time and again to the intervention of the Almighty. As one of them recounted the fact that it had been raining and he got word that a young girl was in danger in the gully, he said is initial thought to himself was: “Fada God, a wah dis?”

He then went into the water, anchored by a hastily contrived rope chain manned by four other young men. They came under heavy pressure from the powerful current, but he was able to finally grab and hand her over to a 'bredren', who put her on his back.

Now hear what he had to say after this: “Mi thank God she save and everyting. Mi not even know her name; mi only see her a road. But mi feel proud.”

God was surely present and at work in the middle of that gully, and the young men, residents of the area around the banks of Sandy Gully, all gave the glory and the thanks to Him, and not to themselves.

This is heartening for a frightened Jamaica at this time, a Jamaica under pressure from the pandemic, from crime, and from grave economic fallout in which every unemployed youth is looking for a quick dollar, no matter how it is earned.

As Jean Lowrie-Chin wrote in her Jamaica Observer column, our hearts should be warmed by these five youngsters who are living heroes in our midst.

The pandemic

Jamaica was put under tighter and wiser restrictions on movement and gatherings for the “Heroes' weekend”. This was expected as we have surely learnt our lesson from the freedom of movement and partying allowed over the Emancipendence holidays. The election campaign and its crowd-mania also added to the increased contacts and carelessness resulting in the surge of coronavirus cases since August.

The weekend lockdown appeared to work in my neck of the woods. The roads were empty by 3:00 pm, the early morning sound system music had died down by midday, and people seemed to stayed home.

This was not the case in other parts of St Ann and elsewhere. There was a reported incident of a Saturday night party ending up in a violent confrontation between the police and partygoers.

I had wondered if we shouldn't have made the extra curfew hours start on Saturday, instead of Sunday. After all, the traditional holiday weekend begins on a Saturday. That's when the parties start, the beaches and river parks are full, and the party venues are jammed. By the time you get to Monday you are usually broke and physically drained.

Nevertheless it was the prime minister's call, and he has a team of proven experts in the medical field to rely on for advice. In fact, he probably has so many people who have lined up to offer him advice, including know-it-alls like myself, that he well knows by now how to separate the wheat from the chaff. He would also know that such advice doesn't come cheap — except in my case — and he would be familiar with, and learnt from the story of the doctor and lawyer who met up at a cocktail party. During their conversation the doctor was approached by a man who asked him for advice on how to handle his ulcer. The doctor mumbled some advice then turned to the lawyer and remarked, “I never know how to handle a situation when I am asked for medical advice during a social function. Is it acceptable to send a bill for such advice?” The lawyer replied that it was certainly acceptable to do so. The next day the doctor sent the ulcer stricken man a bill. The lawyer also sent one to the doctor.

So, as one of the prime minister's many self-appointed advisors, allow me to throw in my two cents — my bill valued roughly the same — and again make the suggestion, as I did in a previous column, that we ought to declare an Anti-COVID-19 Month in Jamaica — a specific period of time to consolidate all strategies and steps being taken to fight the virus, and to get the nation united behind the drive. An Anti-COVID-19 Month calls for a deliberate, intense, emphatic, and concentrated effort to get every single Jamaican to understand the importance of practising the preventive methods for fighting the virus; hammer home the consequences for non-conformity; and demonstrate the seriousness of our intention to save lives.

It is very obvious that a significant proportion of Jamaicans are paying scant regard to the published restrictions and guidelines. We are also abandoning social distancing when we meet and greet friends on the streets and in public spaces. This is natural to us. And, in my case, this advisor is not above the law, as I have on occasion left my mask in the car and it is only when I reach the shop door I am reminded, 'No mask, no entry!'

We need to understand that we are in a battle for our very lives. The novel coronavirus continues its assault on us and is threatening to steal Christmas.

The enemy in this war is without mercy, reminds Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni. “It is an invisible, fleet-footed and ruthlessly effective army. Its only agenda is a harvest of death. It is only satiated after turning the world into one big death field. Its capacity to achieve its aim is not in doubt.”

In that spirit of warfare, and with over one million lives lost worldwide — Jamaica with over 8,000 cases and over 170 deaths — I believe that our options are limited. In spite of the evening curfew hours now being extended to 9:00 pm, we can expect that the provisions of the Disaster Risk Management Act will be more rigorously enforced in the coming days.

“We are going to have to do a public display of enforcement,” says Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, “so that persons can understand that we are serious and there are consequences to ignoring the protocols.”

People need to know that the virus is still out there, in their neighbourhood, down the lane, in their homes, in their pockets. Too many people believe that it is over. We have to fight the virus with every ounce of willpower and resources available. We cannot afford to just fold our arms and wait until a vaccine arrives.

Together, and with God as our defender and protector, we can flatten the COVID-19 curve. Our prime minister, our minister of health, our leaders, our doctors and nurses, our health services staffers and professionals, and voluntary workers all over Jamaica have given us their very best through their untiring efforts to lead the fight against this pandemic.

Now, as God says in Chronicles 7: It's up to us, as a people, to humble ourselves before Him, turn from our wicked ways, ask forgiveness, seek His face, and He will hear us from heaven and heal our land.

The heroic action of those young men in the Sandy Gully last week, and the manner in which they paid tribute to Him for saving the little girl's life, speak volumes. God is still in our midst, and He shall not be moved.

Lance Neita is a public relations professional and author of the book In Partnership With Jamaica, the story of Kaiser Aluminum's 50-yearpartnership with Jamaica. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or lanceneita@hotmail.com.

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