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Hell week! - Gleaner in mourning after Glenroy and Gary's sudden deaths

Published:Friday | June 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness signs the condolence books for Gleaner journalists Gary Spaulding and Glenroy Sinclair at The Gleaner’s North Street, Kingston, offices last Thursday.
Glenroy Sinclair

For decades, several universities and colleges had what was described as 'hell week', where new students were hazed as part of their welcome to the new institutions.

But this left several of the new students traumatised, depressed, injured and, in some cases, dead. Over the years, most universities and colleges have banned hell week, and for us here at The Gleaner, it would have been perfect if that ban had extended to us.

Our hell week started on Friday, June 3, about 2:30 in the afternoon when the first scream pierced the air with the news that Assignment Coordinator Glenroy Sinclair was unconscious at his desk in the Editorial Department.

The first responders were members of the editorial team, with Neville and Tameka leading the way in rendering first aid until the company's nurse arrived. Then it was Crosby who transformed his company vehicle into the ambulance which would rush a still unconscious Sinclair from The Gleaner to the nearby Kingston Public Hospital.

Even before the vehicle left the gates of 7 North Street for the trip that would take less than three minutes, the tears started. Persons were inconsolable as they worried about the long-time team member that everyone called 'Sinco'.

Several persons who had left work for the day returned to the office, while those who had to put out the next day's paper worked with tear-stained faces. There were hugs, there were prayers, there was cussing, and those who had no answer headed to the sports club for some liquid support.

As the news leaked from the hospital, it became clear that Sinco was in a fight for his life but secure in the knowledge that KPH has some of the best doctors, nurses and other medical personnel in the world, and knowing Sinco's strong faith in God, the 'prayer warriors' in the company urged everyone to remain confident that he would pull through.


Written last news story


But he did not make it, and by six Saturday morning, the news started spreading that Sinco had written his last news story after some 30 years at The Gleaner.

Saturday was one of the most painful days in the recent history of the 180-year-old newspaper. Those who had to work did come in; the company's leadership rushed to the Editorial Department; the HR department immediately called in the grief counsellors; and gritty staff 'bawled' loudly even as they declared that The Sunday Gleaner would hit the road on time and with its usual quality.

It fell to Erica Virtue to tell Sinco's story, the worst news story that any reporter could ever have to write. Monique and Carolyn tried to avoid it, but Monique drew the short straw and had to design the page. There has never been such a loud sigh of relief as there was that Saturday when the final page left the Editorial Department for the press room.

Sunday was the day for church, speaking on the phone and taking to social media to share memories of Sinco with everyone dreading seeing his empty desk on Monday and HR making plans for even more grief counselling.

By Monday morning the team was back on the job with the pain evident in every face, despite the excellent grief counsellors the company had engaged.

How? Why? How come? were said so often, even as the Christians prayed for their hurting colleagues. Those not that tight with religion found solace in another form of spirit, and one team member repeatedly played Demarco's Fallen Soldier.

But one person was missing from the office and everyone noticed because he bawled the loudest the previous Friday and he was expected to provide his usual broad shoulders for persons to cry on. "Where is Gary?" asked scores of persons.

It was left to his 'Fortis brother' to travel to his Hughenden, St Andrew, house to get him out as, like he does almost daily, he was not answering his phones.


Called home


But it was discovered that it was not him refusing to take any call; he could not take any call as he had been called home.

'The Rock' Jenni Campbell made the announcement and the Editorial Department erupted into a fresh round of bawling. Two stalwarts gone in less than 48 hours was just too much to bear. Even Ryon, who claimed he did not know how to cry, joined the wailing masses.

It was time for more grief counselling, prayer meetings, one-and-one discussions, visits from colleagues from other newsrooms, a visit from Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his team, and more crying.

Then they started to drop like flies. They all blamed it on ZIKV and we accepted their excuse as Andre, Ryon, Jovan had to be placed on sick leave while the nurse found so many people with high blood pressure they had to be sent off to their doctors.

You could feel the pain in the department when Sinco's wife visited, while almost everyone tried to hold back the tears as Gary's two small daughters and their mother passed through the newsroom.

By last Friday, hell week was coming to an end, but with the planning for the final farewell for two fallen soldiers now under way, The Gleaner is bracing for more tears before the sunshine.

RIP, Gary Wayne Spaulding and Glenroy Wayne Sinclair.