20 years later...

Though I am miles away from Trinidad and Tobago, and actually since I am on vacation, I have zero idea of dates and stuff like that but it was a Facebook status update that reminded me that 20 years ago, our lives were irrevocably changed forever to varying extents. The degree of where we have changed as a nation is still under examination but I wrote this last year on the anniversary of one of the most important dates in T&T history and in my own life as a then 11 year old child.

Posted on July 27, 2009 at 9:03 AM

On the night of July 27, 1990, I was eagerly awaiting sugar cake. My mother had promised my brother and I a batch of sugar cake and at around 6.30, sugar cake was on the stove. Excitement was growing.

Then my neighbor stopped Daddy outside and then the tv went on, and then the sugar cake went on the back burner literally. To an 11 year old, and her 7 year old brother, what could have possibly been more important than a batch of coconut sugar cake.

Both my parents sat to look at the news, but it was not Jones P Madeira reading on Panorama that night. Instead there were men with guns and in Muslim garb, asking if we knew where the Prime Minister was. At this point, I still don't think I fully grasped the gravity of what was happening. It did not seem real to me. Jones P Madeira looked nervous and scared and the man talking to the nation seemed angry. And the sugar cake was no longer a priority for my mother, though for us, it still was.

I did not know what a "coup" was, and did not understand why my mother had to go to work on a Saturday morning. And why suddenly the phones were ringing and why my parents looked so grave and why the tv stayed on all night. And why was the sugar cake being ignored and left to BURN. In the mind of an 11 year old, ignorant to the gravity of this whole situation, THIS was a crisis!

But when we saw images of the Red House under siege, Police Headquarters burning and POS in total chaos, it started to make sense. When I realized the PM was being held captive along with other members of Parliament, and that the police and army were out in full force, it started to make sense. This angry man on the tv had taken hold of the country and now I was really worried.

When there were rumours that the San Fernando Police station was the next to be fire-bombed, then it became real because that was where my own mother was to spend the next few days on non-stop active duty while the country tried to come to grips with this reality. When you saw that dude from CNN Headline News reading about your country, it was apparent that this was more than any 11 year old was ready for. I was supposed to be thinking about new school books and my new uniform, having just gotten my Common Entrance results, passing for my first choice. Not sitting at home waiting for news. Sitting at home under curfew. Sitting at home hoping your mother would be safe - happy to see her come home for a shower, a quick nap and boxes of fast food from Chicken Unlimited, who provided the South teams of police and army with meals for the duration of the insurrection. I did not want to see another French fry after that! (that did not last long though - long live the French fry!)

It was all rather surreal then, and thinking back on it now, 19 years later, it still seems a bit surreal. I remember crying when I heard how they had beaten ANR Robinson, and then reading that he demanded the army to attack with full force, foregoing his own safety. I remember seeing Abu Bakr's surrender and feeling this mixture of relief, dread and anger, that this man had put us all through the worst days of our personal and national histories.

At that point, July 27 1990 was not something I expected ever in my innocent life. Now in 2009, as I sit and look at what Trinidad and Tobago has become and how it has been hijacked yet again by politicians who are no better than the militants with guns holding a country to ransom, it begs us to think hard about the saying, "Those who forget about the past are doomed to repeat it.".

I fear this is so true for our present reality.


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