Tivoli incursion - ten years on | Caught in crossfire at KPH
Written by then Rural Editor Paul-Andre Walker and reprinted from the May 28, 2010 edition of The Gleaner.
Loud bangs pierce the air, and we know we are in trouble.
On Tuesday, journalists from The Gleaner are at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH). Bullets whistling past are too close for comfort.
A police contingent in two vans whizzes past us, tyres screeching and all. They stop just a few feet up the road. Men are shooting at the police!
The police fire back. The gunmen refuse to retreat. We realise that we are really in trouble.
“Get down before you get shot!” says my photographer, before muttering something to himself about amateurs.
I didn’t have the time to feel embarrassed. Besides, that feeling shouldn’t be the last thing that flirts with your emotions just before you get shot, should it?
Needless to say, I follow instructions without being asked a second time.
Then come our rescuers. One ... two ... three ... four – I lose count – brave policemen plaster the same wall I was hugging. They join the fray, without hesitation.
They duck and roll and peep at our attackers, searching for a vantage point. More shots! The gunmen see them and aren’t intimidated. They are fighting fire with fire.
“Reporting tek bravery, man! If mi neva haffi deh yah, mi woulda gone,” says one man, voicing what I am feeling.
I nod my head and smile as if it’s nothing.
“You nuh ‘fraid,” says another woman, hiding behind a piece of zinc that would offer no protection.
“No sah! Me do dis all the time,” I reply, with a slight smirk, the first time I can see anything funny in this whole ordeal.
My photographer, a veteran in this business, is, I dare say, slightly more composed. I’ve lost my notebook and don’t care to find it. He, however, is still taking pictures!
As the shots ring out, we are relieved to see soldiers speeding out of KPH and driving around to encircle our tormentors.
But it’s still at least 15 minutes of ‘I shoot first, then you reply’ before we see the policemen, in their formations, making their way back past us. As the soldiers drive into KPH, it’s evident the clash is all over.
Danger averted, I get the hell off the road.