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July 27

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Where were you on July 27th 1990?

It was a Friday. Tobago Heritage festival was in full swing. The Banyan crew was packing to leave on Saturday. Before lunch I’d tracked Raoul Pantin down to TTT for a story we were working on, he was editing. I left beat it out of town to take up my bar shift, working in television wasn’t paying. It was month end, kids were on vacation, the mall was crammed with people. 

The bar was packed that day, everybody blowing steam, the regulars huddled at the bar staving off the incursions of the recently arrived. Kids back from university, mall staff ducking in to get lunch even though it was closer to dinnertime.

The three tv’s were on overhead as we leaned into the bottle coolers for endless beer and cold glasses. People jostled, you could barely hear yourself, us three bartenders swinging in  unison, singing along to whatever we were playing on the system. It was Friday, while we wouldn’t get paid until the next day we had enough money left and planned to go out and party ourselves.

That all came to a halt around 6:00 p.m. The first we realised something was wrong was when a customer came in and mentioned that there had been a report on the radio of some sort of disturbance at the Red House. And then, Ronald sitting at the bar, pointed to the TV. It looked like Play of the Month. A man in long robes with a gun, talking. We turned up the sound as high as it would go and slowly everyone stopped talking, fighting to hear what was going on. 

That was the beginning. Mall security was coming around to each place. Mall management had gotten a call from the Army, shut the place down. In a matter of minutes people streamed out as we frantically rang up bills and packed up uneaten food. What was important was to go home. We battened down as much as possible not knowing what would come next. None of us knowing when we’d see each other again. Locking away the supplies, taking out the garbage, necessary if we weren’t going to be back for days.

Days turned into weeks, dawn to dusk curfew, broadcasts from army headquarters, Allyson Hennessey and Dennis McComie. The phone still worked, relatives from abroad trying to get through, watching on CNN. The crew at Banyan caught in the crossfire being stuck there for three days until allowed out by the army.  Friends in Woodbrook calling to see, hearing the shots being fired in the back ground. Out east we sat tight. Went to the supermarket when it briefly opened for business. Police and army patrols, stories about American marines landing – true, at Piarco.

Coup, again. Under the guise of holy war but really not. My second. The first in 1970, memories of my mother running up Frederick St. with me in her arms, to my father’s office next to Royal Castle.  Breaking windows, the smell of smoke, people everywhere. The trek over the Lady Young to get home to Granny. My Grandad was, ironically, stuck out in Sierra Leone where there was also a coup. He holed up there, we, the uncles, my great grand parents and granny hunkered down, opening the side door of the shop to sell essentials to village people. 

Twenty years later here we were again. Those days holed up at home with the folks, climbing the walls. Everyone serious, news being passed, neighbours sharing whatever they had. All in all we didn’t have it that bad. Later we were to learn about the events, the Police Station bombing, storming of the Red House, TTT. My colleagues at the station brutalised, traumatised; Jones P and Raoul both of whom I’d spoken to earlier that fateful day. Weeks of curfew and the slow return to normal life. Going to Port of Spain for the first time after. Wreckage, carnage, burnt out hulks of buildings, the smell, you couldn’t get away from it. 

Back at work we shot, no pun intended, around curfew and restrictions. Tobago Heritage Festival abandoned for the commentary that we made our name on. Those terrible times and the loss of life pushed into the background. In the bar we somberly served drinks and traded stories with the people who came by. 

Twenty eight years later we still ask why and how. For some the memories are still a dark place that has never been adequately addressed, for others, no reference at all. What’s the old chestnut? Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it.

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Written by coffeewallah

July 28, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. […] still has many unanswered questions about the attempted coup that took place 18 years ago, while Coffeewallah adds: “The memories are still a dark place that has never been adequately […]

  2. I’m back.

    Patrick Manning

    August 3, 2008 at 12:52 am

  3. Oh, wow, does this mean we have more insights into the mind of…

    coffeewallah

    August 8, 2008 at 4:44 pm

  4. JDxdtv comment6 ,

    Akbdjvix

    May 8, 2009 at 10:32 am


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