May 23, 2023 News
Kaieteur News – Nineteen of Guyana’s young children are dead in Mahdia. A fire in a school dormitory ended their young lives, with seven more injured and being attended to, as this is written. May they make it through, despite the scars and traumas that are sure to visit them for the rest of their lives. For the families, hurting parents, siblings, and others, we hope that they will find the strength somehow to manage and to continue. This is not one set of parents, but a community of parents, a possibly huge number of villages spread across different places, that are impacted for the worst.
What to say? What to write? Who wants to write about anything at a time like this? I certainly don’t when so many are weeping, for I feel the oxygen slipping away, as the Nation mourns its youthful dead. Having been close to loss in my personal space, and huge tragedy, not once but twice, in the wider arena, there is some frail grasping of what this means in those homes shattered into pieces, the communities now so abruptly, dreadfully, wrenched apart. This is beyond the homes of Mahdia; this is a piercing in our soul, at a collective, deeply wounding national level.
I took a step back when the early online headline slapped me right between the eyes: 20? Must be a typo. Except that it isn’t; though there was the small blessing of one less dead, with the grim tally of burnt bodies still now at 19 in the blink of an eye, in one incendiary swoop. What could have gone so wrong so quickly that so many were felled in such harrowing circumstances, would be the first question. It doesn’t help about who was at fault, for that does not return a single child to life, to the welcoming arms of a mother now beside herself, a father stoic in his anguish. The answers, whatever they are, are not going to be easy to accept, but we must have them and at the earliest; at the very least, I am expecting the straightest, clearest answers. From my perspective, something of this grim nature puts everything else where they belong: on the back burner, the farthest one. Everything else that we are engaged in – all the arguing and squabbling and raging at each other over anything and everything – comes to a standstill, can be dismissed as of so little significance. I don’t think that I can recall a fire, or an occurrence in Guyana, in the last 50 years, that had such a high death toll at one going. It is as though we have been hit hard by our own version of a mass killing. The fact that this is a relatively remote community, a segment of the population that is largely poor, and the victims are of such tender years makes this more than a calamity, it is a national tragedy. I heard that it is all girls, which only adds to the sorrow that hangs like a pall over this country at this time. It is at times like these that our humanity must show through, and in the most tangible terms. What to do, and how to go about?
I have heard about prayers, and I firmly believe in those. May each Guyanese heart offer at least one for the fallen and another for their stricken families. I would suggest that we rally around these brothers and sisters (fathers and mothers) and extend a hand in whatever little or big way that we can. Let us do so quietly, and with every regard for the dignity of the mourning families. I think that they could use any simple graciousness, as stirred by the care, compassion, and love in our spirits. Though a rather scarce commodity in this country, let that love shine through in this time of community pain, I would say national pain. To lose a tiny handful of children is bad enough; to lose almost a score in one conflagration, and it is that to those gone and those around, is a horror story beyond any contemplation.
In this hour of loss and weakness, it is my hope that not a single dissonant element creeps into our hushed conversations, none of the usual disturbances. I note the presence of Prime Minister Phillips, Ministers Benn and Manikchand, and there are broad shoulders and big hearts there. Whatever else may be on our minds, I exhort that our agitated spirits be calmed, if only for the briefest of seconds. For those who have to be officially near to the proceedings, I urge that there be mindfulness of the numbness of the circumstances, and that we manage ourselves well, keep the reflexive sentiments in check, and use the moment to comfort the survivors. This is all that matters at this time. I think we all need to show that we are capable of rising to the demands of the moment, as tough as they are, as incredibly agonising as they are. May the families be visited with peace. May this Guyana of ours that grieves for its dead do so with dignity, grace, godliness.
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