"Turn back!" men from the approaching crowd yelled. "Police down deh, turn back!" At first I thought they meant that the police were stopping and perhaps ticketing robot taxis, but as my brave (robot taxi) driver continued, I realised that this was not what they meant. The area was cordoned off with bright yellow tape: we were approaching a crime scene.
The taxi driver (having lost all aforementioned bravery) stopped his car and ordered us out. I looked toward the yellow tape and swallowed. Did he mean we had to walk past this crime scene to get to campus? He turned his car around and drove away, leaving exhaust fumes and dust to provide me with an answer.
It felt surreal: inspectors with white-gloved hands placing measuring tapes on the ground, soldiers patrolling in their army greens with huge magazine guns, policemen directing traffic away from the scene, and crowds of people behind the yellow tape at both ends of the road.
The only time in my life I've ever been close to anything like that was once in Ocho Rios when a police officer shot a taxi driver close to where I was... He did it because his pride was offended and he felt like he had to assert his authority somehow. So out popped the gun, and when the taxi driver seemed unmoved by this scrap of metal waving in his face, the officer stepped things up a notch, and with a whole crowd of women, children and men looking on... he shot the taxi driver for 'mouthing' him.
I remember it in slow motion. There was such a quandary afterward... the shot still ringing in my ears (I was that close), terrified screams, heavy boots hitting asphalt as people ran helter-skelter, my mother grabbing my hand, and looking and calling for my siblings at the same time, the sirens wailing as the police car sped away with the wounded man, the shouting mass of people stampeding their way from and to the scene, the cries of 'him nevah do nutting' already rising. I thought mob justice was about to be delivered. But the police villain got into his car and his colleagues sped him away too.
I think I lost my sensibilities for a good five minutes or so. My sense of direction disappeared, and had my mother not been nearby, I might have run in the wrong direction or stood there petrified, watching everyone else run for cover. But mommy was there, and by the time she and my father rounded us up and got us on a bus to go home, I had recovered and was jabbering excitedly with my siblings about it.
My mother was most traumatised. Her maternal reflexes snapped into full action when the incident was occurring, but by the time we reached home, she was a frail, weak and semi-senseless being. Her nerves were shot. She went promptly to bed, and for the remainder of the week, that was where she stayed, distressed at the thought and memory of what had transpired (she saw it).
I felt it for her, but, as you can imagine, when the immediate danger was past, I was soo excited at having actually been there (and my schoolmates only magnified my feeling of greatness by having me recount again and again what I saw)... I felt thrilled at having witnessed a potential murder: I even wanted to be able to claim that I saw the taxi man go down, but my spotless Christian upbringing got the better of me.
It was something else.
And that was what came to mind when I saw all the yellow tape and heard that a man had been shot. My alertness quadrupled I even had a CSI/NCIS moment (*saw a short fella in a spiffy suit walking briskly from the crime scene, talking on his cell phone with this air of self-importance and just knew he was the head detective: Grissom/Gibbs*).
As I walked past the crime scene, I unconsciously drew closer, wondering who shot this man and why... But the girl who got booted out of the taxi with me was adamant that I should not be stupid and waste time endangering my life for foolishness. Silly me pointed out that the immediate danger was past and it didn't hurt to look and listen. In response this, my fellow strandee replied, "anything is possible."
That woke me up, and I hurried to class. Because, hey, you know what?? Anything is possible.