When heroes dare

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Mark Wig­nall is a pub­lic-af­fairs and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and ob­serve­mark@gmail.com.

TWO FRI­DAYS ago when 24year-old Tre­mayne Brown saw a young child be­ing washed away by the rag­ing flood­wa­ters rush­ing along in the Col­lie Smith Drive gully, not a mo­ment was spared in him jump­ing into the un­known dan­gers of the quickly mov­ing run-off.

He may have told the nation what it was that spurred his ac­tion, but can we ever truly de­ter­mine what it is that sep­a­rates him from the ma­jor­ity of us? Most of us are ba­si­cally ra­tio­nal, es­pe­cially where it relates to our own preser­va­tion and the pro­tec­tion of our lives from im­mi­nent dan­ger.

It’s a rainy pe­riod, and the ex­cess wa­ter from the hills is rush­ing along in the gully and a lit­tle child is be­ing washed away. We are im­me­di­ately filled with com­pas­sion for the child and our first re­sponse is to shout out in dis­may or cry for help. Even if one is a swim­mer, the wa­ter is high enough and is in its last wild rush to the sea to make it im­pos­si­ble to swim through.

We opt for our own preser­va­tion and the hope that we will live to see many more days. We have high hopes for the child, but we know the like­li­hood of his life be­ing spared is close to zero.

We now know that Tre­mayne opted for quite the op­po­site and jumped in to save the young boy. We also know that after the rag­ing wa­ters had taken them hun­dreds of yards to­wards the sea, Tre­mayne mirac­u­lously saw an over­hang­ing branch and reached out for it. When oth­ers even­tu­ally reached him to save his own life, he was barely hang­ing on, with the young­ster clutch­ing tightly to his back.

The many cuts and bruises on his body, along with the sore mus­cles and sinews, paint a pic­ture of a young Tre­mayne who be­came a hero that day. He per­formed the ul­ti­mate hu­man act of sav­ing a life while ex­pos­ing his own to po­ten­tial death.

Leav­ing Ja­maica at six years old and be­ing a re­cent de­por­tee (six months ago), Tre­mayne is ba­si­cally Bri­tish, hav­ing lived in Eng­land for 18 years.

A step-rel­a­tive abroad told me last week, “There is no doubt that we could have done bet­ter with him. Ear­lier on,

there was some frag­men­ta­tion, and it prob­a­bly af­fected him. He didn’t fin­ish high school and for a time he found him­self as­so­ci­ated with the wrong crowd.

“He wasn’t into any hard­core stuff, but he was ba­si­cally adrift. I be­lieve he was de­ported more for what his as­so­ciates did than for any di­rect crim­i­nal­ity on his part. In any case, he had no good de­fence and his life was go­ing nowhere.”


A few res­i­dents of Ar­nett Gar­dens, through which the gully runs, have made the claim that they de­serve recog­ni­tion, even if not at the level that the nation has been cel­e­brat­ing Tre­mayne.

In truth, they were the ones who made the fi­nal res­cue of Tre­mayne and the trem­bling child. They ought to be recog­nised. What also needs to be stated is that if Tre­mayne had not made that split-se­cond de­ci­sion to ‘chuck’ him­self into the rag­ing wa­ters, the child would likely have died and there would

be no need for a fi­nal res­cue of the pri­mary hero and the life he saved.

So, some per­spec­tive is needed. The men who also made that dan­ger­ous de­ci­sion to jump off into the fast-flow­ing flood wa­ters are them­selves heroes, but it is not a sim­ple mat­ter to place cat­e­gories of brav­ery in this widely fol­lowed na­tional mat­ter.

If, how­ever, there is a lead­ing char­ac­ter in this very real story of a mod­ern-day hero, it is Tre­mayne Brown.

I can well un­der­stand that after the ever-present LASCO stepped in to of­fer him a job and other cor­po­rate bod­ies show­ered him with gifts, it has forced on those other play­ers on the same team to ex­plain that the fi­nal play was mostly be­cause of their own heroic moves.

Ja­maica is ba­si­cally starved for good news that moves the me­ter on ev­ery section of so­ci­ety. This re­cent ac­tion looms larger than an­other Ja­maican bank re­port­ing mind-numb­ing prof­its while the rest of us can’t quite fig­ure why there is this yawn­ing gap be­tween the per­for­mance of those at the top and

the dwin­dling re­sources be­ing fought for by those at the very base.

In Tre­mayne sav­ing that child’s life, it touched Ja­maica in quite a dif­fer­ent way than, say, Bolt and com­pany giv­ing us hon­our on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

The heroic act of Tre­mayne was some­thing we wanted to see in our­selves, even as we basked in the glory that re­demp­tion gave to the young man. He was ours, from a much vil­i­fied part of so­ci­ety that is of­ten thought to be the cra­dle of crim­i­nal­ity. And yet his spe­cial light came shining through.

“I don’t want them to give him a pile of money. I would much pre­fer for him to have a steady job and fur­ther train­ing in some­thing that fits him,” said the step-rel­a­tive. “If he is to get cash, it would be use­ful for it to be placed in the form of a trust with con­di­tions ap­plied. A job is the first pri­or­ity.

“I know that he is also spend­ing time out­side the com­mu­nity. I would like to en­cour­age that, as he will be able to make more con­tacts, as there are still peo­ple who fear go­ing to Ar­nett Gar­dens.”

When I called Tre­mayne’s cell num­ber on Thurs­day, it was his father who an­swered. “Tre­mayne on two in­ter­view now.” We spoke about other mat­ters, and he sug­gested I call back.

A nation cel­e­brates him and it gives us pause to reflect on our so­cial prej­u­dices.


For more than a few weeks now, I have been try­ing to de­ter­mine from those in charge ex­actly what would be in the specifics of the so­cial in­ter­ven­tion side of the zones of spe­cial oper­a­tions. I did not have much luck.

Based on what has been re­ported was de­liv­ered in the Mt Salem com­mu­nity two week­ends ago – 258 birth cer­tifi­cates, 72 TRNs, 41 NIS cer­tifi­cates, 237 peo­ple seen by a doc­tor, 470 got den­tal treat­ment, 156 saw the op­ti­cian, 46 food han­dler’s per­mits is­sued, 55 reg­is­tered with PATH, 43 with HEART, 17 reg­is­tered for ap­pren­tice train­ing, 13 got job place­ment at call cen­tres, 11 reg­is­tered un­der HOPE, 76 fam­i­lies ben­e­fited from back-to-school sup­plies to in­clude khaki, bags, books and pen­cils, I now know.

We do not know what per­cent­age of th­ese ba­sic so­cial needs were sat­is­fied, but, as a start, this looks quite im­pres­sive. What it tells us is that de­tails of the so­cial in­ter­ven­tion needs list could not be com­piled be­cause the ac­tual needs were not known.

The more problematic fix will be in the find­ings, which are noth­ing new, in that bro­ken fam­i­lies are a fea­ture of the com­mu­nity. That can only be fixed over at least two gen­er­a­tions.

I am pos­i­tive that the Gov­ern­ment is get­ting fund­ing buy-in from the big pri­vate-sec­tor op­er­a­tors in the area in re­gard to part-fund­ing for the con­tin­u­a­tion of the so­cial de­liv­er­ables. I say this be­cause as the ZOSO moves into other com­mu­ni­ties, I can see a day when the kitty is go­ing to be sim­ply empty.

But it ought to be a win-win for all. A bet­ter so­cial or­der in­volv­ing more peo­ple be­ing law­fully hooked up to the main util­i­ties, a health­ier com­mu­nity, more chil­dren go­ing to school on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, the spurring of ad­di­tional busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties at a very ba­sic level, and an at­mos­phere un­pleas­ant for crim­i­nals, as more peo­ple gain trust in the se­cu­rity forces.

The long haul is ahead.


Tre­mayne Brown, the hero of Trench Town, talks to jour­nal­ists about his Septem­ber 8 res­cue of Re­naldo Reynolds from a flooded gully along Col­lie Smith Drive last week. The video of the dra­matic res­cue has gone vi­ral over the last week.

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