I was struck by a young man’s eyes too sad to behold. His father had recently gone missing at sea. I’d been walking to a Gros Islet bakery close to where I reside when the friend I was with called out to the teen, enquiring about news of his dad. The young man shook his head. There had been no good word in the two weeks since his father had disappeared. My friend later told me that two other people who had been with the missing man on his boat were also unaccounted for. One of them was also a teenager, like the man’s son.
As we walked near the Gros Islet playing field it was difficult putting him out of my mind. I then started thinking about another young man, just 21, also from my community, who had been shot multiple times in the wee hours of Friday, January 6. He was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead. Family members reported that he had been shot while asleep on a chair at his home; a case of mistaken identity, they believed. I glanced over at the playing field where other young men were engaged in a lively game of football, and recalled someone saying that Jeremie, the 21-year-old who had possibly died because a gunman had misidentified him, was also an avid football fan who played regularly at the community playing field. Life would go on as usual without him.
As we walked I thought about a 16-year-old student of Choiseul Secondary School who nearly lost his life earlier this month after ingesting a poisonous substance. He was released from hospital days later but not before his family had given a detailed account of what had transpired. They said he had written a note that read in part “there is nothing to life when you lose someone . . . no one knows the pain you go through . . .”
Another teen was killed last weekend in a shooting incident that also claimed the lives of two other men. He went by the name of Dequan and was reportedly attending a barbeque at a garage in Jacmel when he was shot. Dequan was one of five people killed that day.
The above-mentioned incidents are only the tip of the iceberg of crime and despair. The casualties are not always teenagers but more and more of them they are falling victim to a situation that long ago had spiralled out of control. There is a cloud of hopelessness hanging over the heads of our most vulnerable, and that was evident to me as I looked into the eyes of that first-mentioned young man from Gros Islet who had no idea where his father was, or whether he’d ever see him again. In that brief moment I read in his eyes the present and future of far too many young Saint Lucians.
What do the rest of us do? What can we do perchance to save them from future horrors like those earlier cited? What do we do at this point to convince young people ours is not an unsympathetic society, concerned only with self?
As Prime Minister Allen Chastanet observed at his first press conference of the year, only when we all decide to no longer turn a blind eye to crime, when we do whatever we can to assist the vulnerable in our society, will we see a change in our circumstances.
We’re caught in a do-ordie situation. But escape is possible, if we truly want to!