Today things have raged on, but outside of the downtown/Tivoli area has settled down considerably. Except that there was shooting in Crossroads (about a 10 minute walk downhill from our house). Anyway, Vanessa was able to leave her home for the first time in days, so she came over. Prior to this there has been shooting and violence directly next to Vanessa's house, so we decided to enjoy each other's company today. Stefon, Vanessa, and I decided to venture outside! Mostly I think this was a desire to see some of the atmosphere of the city, but also to get some food. I've had a craving for a couple very specific things since Saturday night! So we all went together to go have a look and get some food. We walked to New Kingston (about a ten minute walk). Got some pizza and headed home. It was sort of surreal, there were more people out today but Pizza Hut was virtually empty (just a few costumers, that never happens) and they only had medium pizzas. Everywhere was closing at about 4:00.
We had a lot of fun, it was a brief respite from reality. When I returned home things came crashing back down. If you are averse to unsettling details, it's probably best not to read on.
I bought phone credit so I was getting in touch with friends and partners in mission trapped in their home. One young friend, who's 14, sent me messages saying she was terrified and about some graphic incidents that have happened directly in front of her house. She explained to me that there's also been a struggle to remove dead bodies. In the hot Caribbean sun the stench of dead bodies increases exponentially, while dogs and crows eat away flesh to sinew and bones. Meanwhile all residents can do is watch. She explained that attempts to move many bodies were thwarted by gun fire. On the news this evening I'm hearing from the mayor of Kingston Desmond McKenzie that he's aware of the issue and steps have been made forward. Another concern is that in the areas in conflict most residents only keep a day to two days of food in their homes. When there was a lull in gunfire this morning many made a dash to purchase more food, but little was left in the shops in those areas. Most of these small shops in Tivoli/Trench Town are stocked by people who go "downtown" buy things wholesale and bring them back to the community. Since there's violence "downtown" and in the markets, and in the community, that's not happening. The concern is that the shelves in the shops will go bare, and people will have no back up provisions.
There was an announcement on the news that Red Cross is making plans about these issues, but no deliveries yet.**
I'm getting more and more reports about people I know (from the young to the old) being injured. One of the students at Operation Restoration* was shot in the road today and fell down, no one could get back to drag him out. I haven't heard yet whether or not he got out alive. I saw two people I know on the news, one helping to carry a bleeding wounded senior citizen and another who we saw live being shot in the arm and back while he tried to help someone else. He is injured but has survived. What's really sad about that particular story is that he used to be a gunman, but gave it up and became a Christian. He's been one for about four years now, staying away from guns and violence.....The official count from 1 PM is 26 civilians dead, but friends in the community estimate that it's higher.
When I spoke with friends in Majesty Gardens yesterday and things have been bad there as well. Majesty Gardens struggles with gang war between "Up the road" and "Down the road." This conflict flares on a regular basis running rampant till the intervention of police or army. The opportunistic gangs have not let the chance of occupied arms forces pass them by and are having a gory field day in Majesty. Two died yesterday, and today the community was filled with constant gun shots. One friend expressed that he feels like he's dead already.
*Operation Restoration is the first place I volunteered in Trench Town. I worked there for two summers. It's a remedial school serving people age 12-17. Fusion partners with Operation Restoration with our School's Work program or "Lunchtime with a difference" program. The students at our Trus' Camp, put on by New Generation together with Fusion, CLF and Blvd. Baptists church members, were also from Operation Restoration.
**The Red Cross and other organizations and churches later put together bags and delivered them in Tivoli. Not sure about Trench Town.