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Collateral damage in a senseless war

I write this letter in memory of a young man name Rohan “Chucky” Ayres, who died as a result of collateral damage in a senseless gang war.
I met him when he was about four years old or looked that way to me, although later I realised he was a late developer, so he was always tiny for his age. He offered to carry my bag which was filled with vegetables and provisions, but I told him the bag was heavy, plus it was bigger than he was.
He said, “Miss, don’t worry I can carry it.” He struggled with it for a while until I told him to stop and took the bag from him and gave him some money for his troubles. A “rastaman” shouted out to him “Chucky leave the lady alone”. I turned and said to him “don’t call him that name, that is the name of a horror doll”. He laughed and said, lady that little boy don’t do anything for free, he always “choking” his hand for money, so that’s why we call him “chucky”. He was correct, because over the years he could always be seen hustling a job.
He was so tiny, yet he would cut bush, run errands, hop on moving trucks to offload building materials. I once saw him organise some little boys to carry blocks like an experienced foreman...it was amazing and he was probably nine years old at the time. I never saw him beg anyone, he was always earning his own money.
However, I was always sad to see him on the streets at night especially when there was school the next day. He should have been at home, not hanging out on the block with older boys. A few times I asked him why he was on the street late and he would mumble something about not having school the next day, but being on the streets was already in his blood since he started so young.
He was hit by a stray bullet when he was about five years old, so it is with profound sadness that I learnt he was killed, a victim of this senseless gang war. The price we are paying for the lost lives of these young men is too high.
People wonder when will it end? How can it end, when there is profit to be made with the sale of guns and drugs. There is a sense of fear and hopelessness that pervades the air in east Port of Spain. People are tired of the nightly cacophony of gunshots, the constant wakes and funerals. What people see now, is the evil which has encompassed a community that once shared common bonds and enjoyed friendly rivalry. Sporting facilities lie abandoned because of fears of drive-by shootings. Young men on the block view strange vehicles with anger and suspicion, because fear has consumed all aspects of their lives.
These young men have created their own nightmare, their own cages, their own bondage. The victims of all this tragedy are the innocent people caught in the crossfire.
Sometimes the family might get lucky and they send a bottle of rum or a pack of candles with a mumbled “I am sorry”, which does not replace the life so needlessly taken away.

A McKenna
via e-mail
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