Monday, August 28, 2017

Journey from Bolt-fest to Barcelona

Emotional Farewell Tribute to Legend Usain Bolt at IAAF
World Games, London 2017
Column published in the Jamaica Observer - Monday 28 August 2017

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

I warmed to the sight of our beautiful mountains, as our flight from London made its approach to the Norman Manley Airport.  This time I said a special prayer of thanksgiving, as we had seen the evil face of terrorism just three days before.

We were visiting Barcelona after the IAAF World Games in London, the home of my husband’s favourite football club, his beloved Barça, and so that sunny Thursday, August 17, we visited their headquarters at Joan Camper.  And the end of the tour, I commented on the happy buzz of Las Ramblas from our visit the day before and suggested that we return there to eat. “No, too crowded,” said Hubie, a response that probably saved our lives.
Just a couple of hours later, we heard loud sirens and saw ambulances and police cars whizzing past us. “Ataque terrorista!” said an agitated souvenir vendor with her cell phone to her ear. A few streets away from us, a coldhearted terrorist had driven a van, zigzagging through the Las Ramblas median killing 13 persons, including a small child and injuring over 100.
My photo and message of solidarity
with Barcelona
The city went into shutdown – there was no metro and taxis were not stopping to pick up anyone as the attackers were still at large. We walked for two hours, trying to find transportation, slipping behind trees and columns whenever we saw a van or truck approaching, knowing that these attacks sometimes happen in clusters. We found out later that it was indeed the cynical plan of the crazed terrorists who had been preparing multiple gas cylinders at a house the previous night. The plan backfired as there was an explosion that destroyed the house and killed two persons including the vile Imam who had radicalized the youth in a small town called Ripoll, 85 miles away from Barcelona and formed a terrorist cell.   
As we watched the reports of death and injury at Las Ramblas, we mourned the innocent victims who like us, were enjoying a family holiday. We joined with the citizens and visitors who refused to cower and decided to continue our touring the next day.  We joined the line to visit the exquisite Sagrada Familia Basilica, and prayed the Rosary.   
On our return to Jamaica, we visited the Embassy of Spain to sign the condolence book, and spoke with the gracious Ambassador Josep Maria Bosch Bessa, who is himself a native of Barcelona. We shared with him our experiences, noting that despite the tragedy, his city continued to radiate courage, peace and warmth.  May we work to rekindle this loving humanity that is at the centre of every human being so that terrorism will find no harbour in any heart.
Our children’s safety
As we caught up with the local news, it was clear that we have very serious challenges to our efforts to achieve Vision 2030. The better off among us may be able to lock themselves away from the terror in our inner cities, but that desperation we felt as we tried to find our way back to our hotel, is felt every day by the decent people in our high-risk areas throughout the country.  It is sickening that 35 children have been murdered since the beginning of the year, including the bright young Mickolle Moulton of Meadowbrook High who did not live to find out that she had attained a total of 10 CSEC subjects and that she was a candidate for Head girl of the school.
Before it gets any worse, let us acknowledge that we are just 3 million in a small country that is highly fixable.  If every single politician on both sides commits to put country before party, Jamaica would be transformed tomorrow.  If they used even half the energy they expend on campaigning, we would have a safer Jamaica.  If our church leaders would join together and activate an islandwide plan to do as Jesus did, engage the poor and the lost, what a country we could build. The same goes for leaders in other spheres of national life where corruption is virtually a given and ego-tripping gets more play than productivity. If crimes are being committed by a minority, that is a damning judgment on the majority.
Our family at the QE Stadium in Stratford
Bolt-powered Brand Jamaica
We don’t seem to appreciate the Bolt-powered Brand Jamaica and its potential to lift those who are desperately seeking employment and a better way of life.  There were countless queries about where we bought our Jamaica jackets (yes, London was indeed chilly).  The plan to open 15 Usain Bolt Tracks & Records (UBTR) is marked for success.
Hubie and I were at the 2012 Beijing Olympics when Usain Bolt emerged as a star of the track. Countless folks from various countries asked to take photos with us and our flag.  Last year we journeyed to Rio and Bolt rewarded us with his superlative triple-treble – there we were outside the Rio Stadium, singing ‘One Love’ with Daddy Bolt!
As usual, for London we stocked up with Jamaican souvenirs so anyone who said anything kind to us about Jamaica, we would give them a token of our appreciation.  Luckily we had many, because the shouts of “Jamaica! Bolt!” were numerous. 
Jamaica, please know that our Usain St. Leo Bolt had much to do with those packed stands at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium in Stratford.  On entering the Stadium, there were only two flags being hawked: British and Jamaican.  Moreover, there were Usain Bolt scarves selling like hot bread and there were Bolt billboards everywhere.
Please know that the world’s love for our Usain has not diminished. Indeed, the 100 metre bronze and that heart-breaking injury in the 4x100 metre event, created even more empathy for our Legend because of his dignified response.  He congratulated Gatlin with grace, and he refused a wheelchair after the relay mishap, so he could walk across the finish line with his teammates.
The farewell tribute to Bolt and his gestures of gratitude on his final circuit around the London Stadium were met with thunderous applause and tears.  He is loved, not only for his phenomenal world records, but also for his warm personality, nurtured by his loving upbringing.  Mr and Mrs Bolt are models of parenting, and his mentor Norman Peart and coach Glen Mills are positive role models for our star.

There are so many promising Jamaican youngsters, just waiting for us to move the clouds out of their lives so they can shine like Bolt.  We must come together and give them that chance.

No comments:

Post a Comment