Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Trini Tuesday-The Dark Side

Ever since I started Trini Tuesday features I have wrestled with whether or not to share this story. If I do, how do I do it? I NEVER want to come across as disrespectful or judgemental of the culture because I loved it there so much and there are so many people in Trinidad who I cherish so deeply and esteem so highly. I think it is reasonably well-establised that I loved it there, that I sought to learn all I could about the place, that I truly enjoyed the experience, that I continue to have a great affection for Trinidad's people and culture.

That being said, all was not sweetness and light. Trinidad, like everywhere else in the world, has a dark side. In Trinidad, it is the crime rate. When we moved there we understood it was virtually guaranteed we would be burglarized at some point. I can't think of a single person I know there who doesn't have a story about being robbed. It's practically a rite of passage. As such, most houses have high fences or walls around them and most people put burglar-proofing (iron bars) on at least their windows. Most people also keep dogs for security.

Our turn came January 19, 1993. Prior to that we had been living in Arima in a relatively safe neighborhood. Then we moved briefly to D'Abadie because a fellow affiliated with our boss was coming to the USA to study and wanted to have someone live in his house while abroad. We agreed to be the renters/housesitters. I was concerned about the lack of burglar-proofing even though there was a high wall with broken bottles along the top. I refused to move until some was installed. Admittedly, we still did not have a dog due to my protests about allergies. We were smart enough to ask about neighborhood security. The homeowner assured us in the 5 years since he had lived there he had never been robbed. The guy was going to be attending seminary in the USA, surely he'd be forthcoming about something this important. Uh, yeah, right.....what a naive Lime you are.

Our former house had faced west which meant it baked in the afternoon sun and the walls literally radiated the heat back on us each night. This new place was an 'upstairs house' (two-story) which faced east, so each evening we got the most refreshing breeze. I was 5 months pregnant and having real difficulty adjusting to the tropical heat. Diana was asleep in her crib, Mr. Lime and I were watching TV with the front sliding doors open (lots of people sit with east doors open at night) so I could sit right in front of it and enjoy that wonderful breeze.

And then he came in. He had on a ski-mask. I am feisty enough that I started to rise to chase him out and then he raised the gun. I sat my ass right down. Something about being pregnant and having a gun trained on me makes me quite docile. And then the next one came in...and then the next one....My God, when will they stop coming in??...Three ski-masked gunmen were in our living room demanding whatever cash we had. Sleep, Diana. Just sleep right through this, please. They got a lot because we did not yet have a secured checking account (several months rigamarole before they will give you one), which meant we had to stop by the office of each utility service and pay in cash. The long lines meant you went to the bank one day and got to pay the bills the next day. Mr. Lime had just gone to the bank to be able to pay the bills the following morning. Mr. Lime and I each had a gun pointed at us as they marched us around. They demanded our wedding bands and made Mr. Lime empty his pockets (hence they came into possession of our car keys).

Then they marched us into our bedroom and told us to lie face down. We are going to catch bullets with the backs of our skulls...Diana! They had brought rope but during the looting process found our duct tape and decided that would work better. They taped ankles, hands behind back, then mouths. Mr. Lime, then me. As they started to tape my mouth they went up over my nose as well and I squirmed and mumbled in a panic. They removed it from my nose.

Two left the bedroom and one remiained with his gun still on us. I heard Diana cry out once and fall silent. My God, what are you fucking bastards doing to my child??????!!!!!!!!! I started wriggling, trying fruitlessly to get to her. The gunman flipped me over on my back and tore my clothes off from the waist down and then undid his own pants. They are hurting Diana and now they will hurt this baby too! NOOOO!!!! With pleading eyes and muffled cries for mercy I begged him not to while my husband thrashed in desperation next to me, as helpless as I was. I will never know on this side of eternity what made him stop before he raped me but something did. All I know is I am deeply grateful.

The other two came back to our bedroom and said we had to go keep Diana quiet. They yanked us to our knees. My husband was able to knee walk slowly. I had been taped so tightly my feet turned purple. I kept falling over as I frantically tried to reach my daughter. One of the gunmen grabbed me under the arms and dragged me to her. Oh, my Diana....You're ok!!!! Diana sat very placidly sucking her thumb in her crib. The mosquito netting around her crib was undisturbed. She smiled when she saw us, pointed at our faces and babbled, 'Mommy, Daddy, funny masks. Hahaha!!' Oh my precious child, you have no idea. We hummed every soothing bedtime song to her we could think of while she reached through her crib and touched our faces. She had been cranky and fussy all day. This was the only time she had been calm.

While we were humming my husband managed to get his hands free from the duct tape. We waited what felt like an eternity until the house fell quiet. My husband removed the rest of his duct tape and then mine, he checked to see the house was empty while I scooped Diana out of the crib and clung to her tenaciously. The phone lines had been cut so we would have to go to a neighbor's house to call the police. I am quite sure even though I was barefoot, 5 months pregnant, and carrying a 2 year old while I ran across a dark pineapple patch I could have easily beaten Ato Bolden himself (T&T's Olympic track and field star).

It was the most horrific event of my life thus far and one I hope is never repeated or exceded and yet some good came of it. Back then the routine robbery scenario was coming home to find a ransacked house, maybe a break-in while people were asleep. Our experience horrified most who knew us. Until that point, some folks had been a bit aloof. Yeah, dey nice an all but dey gonna leave when tings does get bad. When we didn't immediately run home to the States people were more trusting. We found out we were loved when a good friend came to us the next morning with tears in her eyes and just hugged me while I cried and when others came and offered practical assistance (we'd lost an entire month's paycheck BEFORE we paid the bills and bought groceries, if you recall).

The other positive outcome was being reconciled to my brother. He had not spoken to me for 7 years, for various reasons. I had never shut the door on reconciliation but he had chosen not to walk through it. Several months after we came back to the US he came to me and we made peace. I was stunned. I was overjoyed, but I was stunned. I couldn't imagine what brought it about finally. I asked my mother what her thoughts were and she told me after we'd been robbed he started asking about us. She said he remained worried for the rest of our stay in Trinidad. None of us were harmed physically so if that ordeal is what it took to bring my brother back...well, ok, I can be thankful.

Some weeks after the robbery the police found the 3 guys they believed had robbed us. They were a fairly notorious group that had killed one of their robbery victims the week after our encounter. There was a gun battle between police and the men. One of the men died in the shootout. The other two went to jail. Works for me. We also found out that while the house we had lived in had not been robbed in the prior 5 years the neighborhood itself had seen 23 robberies in the past year alone. Shame on us for taking the homeowner at his word and not pressing further.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow.

I am sorry that you had to go through that experience and so very happy that you survived.

Without the dark, you can't appreciate the light!

I don't think any less of Trini for having heard that story. This gang sounds like a particularly bad one, not typical of Trini. Sounds like they got what they derserved!

--M (As if You Care)

tl said...

I was in Indonesia for three lots of Riots, something like that tends to knock the gloss off the place a bit.

But I think, knowing it is only a minority, and not the normal thing, there are still so many good memories.

I'm glad you were not harmed any worse than you were and there were benefits as a result.

:)

James Goodman said...

I'm glad some good came out of such a horrible ordeal.

barefoot_mistress said...

Oh man, Lime, that's a story you've never told me before!

I think we all have a little horror story in our lives like that.....

Once, as a cashier in a hamburger stand, I was robbed at gunpoint.....I was so stunned I just stood there frozen as he demanded the money....the cook finally shoved me out of the way and opened the register and gave him all the cash as I stood there, staring at the gun which was pointed at my face.....I was 16.

That is a really heavy moment that you chose to share, Lime. So glad you came out of it safe, and still love Trini!

Logophile said...

Glad you were ok, and some good came of it.
You just made my re-entry issues act up :p
Everywhere has its criminal element, I am just so glad they didn't hurt our Limey and fam.

ttfootball said...

wow Lime...what an experience. Glad u didn;t judge the place based on that. I always hear the stories, never went thru it. Happy u survived it and it wasn't any worse.

Phaedrous said...

Lime,

I can see why you have not told that story before. Just thinking about having to revisit the memories gives me the willies. I am glad you are around to tell the tale and that no one was physically injured. Mentally, that's another story (so to speak).

P.

lime said...

m, without the dark, you cannot appreciate the light very well said!

tl, it did indeed knock the gloss off, but yes, we must remember that is a small minority of people.

james, if it had to happen i am glad too. thanks also for your encourgement regarding the story earlier.

susie, your story is horrifying too. i'm so glad it had a safe ending!

logo, i'm sorry about your re-entry. it was rough coming back here and living in a house with no fence of burglarproofing and that was situation just feet from the road.

tt, thanks. no i can't judge the whole place by that. and i hope that for as long as you are here in the US you also will excuse our boneheads (and hopefully never have anything truly awful happen) and be able to enjoy the good people.

phaedrous, i'd be lying if i said my pulse did not quicken and my muscles did not tense as I typed it all out. thankfully, no physical harm done. mentally, yes...well...that's a whole other story....

Jodes said...

OMG Lime!! How scary, I would have been a mess. Did you have nightmares. OMG!!! I do not even know what to say. Glad you were not hurt and sweet little Diana for being so calm.

keda said...

ugh.. horrific.

so glad you were not hurt more.

but that was quite enough frankly.
hugs.

rose_michelle said...

What a horrifying story. Unfortunately I know how violated you must have felt. My father-in-law's house was robbed on Friday. They came in through my husband's old bedroom and walked past the hallway filled with his Army photos and under the banner we made that says "Come home soon, Capt. Lindsey, US Army." I guess wven thr thought of stealing from a deployed Soldier cannot deter some people. We haven't told him and I'm not sure my FIL will until he returns. Thank goodness, no one (including our puppy) was home.

MyUtopia said...

It happends in this U.S. too. Everyone on my block growing up had been robbed at least once. Our turn was in 1987. Thankfully we weren't at home at the time. My niehgbor chased them out of our house, but they had already taken our big stuff as well as some jewlery. My neighbor two houses down was not so lucky and was beaten pretty bad when she was robbed.

lecram sinun said...

Dang, Lime! What a horrific experience! Yet you pulled through with grace. Tons to be thankful for on that one... the biggest being life. You are a total rock!

lime said...

jodes, hubby had nightmares. i had more problems during waking hours.

keda, i'm glad too

rose, i am so sorry to hear that. especially in light of your hubby's current deployment.

myutopia, that's a rough situation. sad to hear about your neighbor. i hope they caught the perps

lecram, i am deeply grateful we were not harmed. that's most important. take my stuff, just leave my family and me alone.

Andrew said...

That is a terrible ordeal. My employer has an office in Trinidad and I think this will make me careful.

Andrew
To Love, Honor and Dismay

kien lim said...

Wow! That was real bad! But thankful it wasn't worse!

Breazy said...

Lime thank you so much for sharing that story with us . I think Trini is in a way like everywhere else where good and evil are concerned . I am glad that none of you were harmed physically.

Also , I wanted to comment on your previous post about Steve Irwin. I actually cried over his death because we watched him all the time . I also done just a small post about his death . The world isn't going to be the same without him where animals are concerned. You have a good day !

Gary said...

That is an extremely scary story. I is hard for me to imagine how people can do things like those three.

Moosekahl said...

Wow...not sure what else to say but am thankful you are with us today and have your lovely family to share with us as well.

lime said...

andrew, an ounce of prevention.....

kien, thanks!

breazy, truly, every place has a good and a bad side

gary, it is certainly beyond my comprehension

moose, i'm thankful too

Lacquer, Semi-Gloss Lacquer said...

I've never understood what makes people take things from others, (I mean, I know what they do, --but never got why?) I've had stuff taken twice since I've been here, it's quite a helpless and violated feeling.
-To add raping someone to that is true savegery...
You guys are quite strong, Lime.
-Personally, I think I know why they were stopped before going further, and am grateful.
--why did you go to Trini to begin with? was it a missions thing?

snavy said...

Oh Lime - what a horrible experience! So sorry you had to endure such an event pregnant and with Diana away from your sight.

I'm so happy that you were left(at least and mostly) physically unharmed and that this did not tarnish the rest of your stay in Trinidad.

Boysenberry said...

Bloody hell. I'm happy to say I've never been through an experience like that. Glad you came out of it okay.

Rob said...

Michelle, needless to say (but I'll say it anyway!), like everyone else I am SO glad you and your hubby and daughter escaped this potentially lethal situation relatively unscathed. Such abhorrent acts of violence can happen ANYWHERE and this surely doesn't reflect negatively on T-T any more than it would if it had taken place here or in any other country in the world. The fact is, evil exists in the world and there are criminals in every society. Fortunately, most of us are never personally confronted with the sort of terrifying assault that you went through, but it is a profound experience for anyone who goes through something like you did. Confronting the real possibility of being raped, maimed, killed -- or seeing a family member harmed by someone while you are powerless to stop them -- gives you a whole different perspective on life, and how fragile our existence can be! I salute your courage and rejoice at the fact that all of you came through this with mind and body whole.

Let me just add that your incredible writing skills made this description totally moving and "real" for me as I read the account. I could almost feel the bonds that rendered you and your husband helpless. I could clearly picture the scene in your home, your daughter's (thankfully) lack of understanding of the peril all of you were in, and the terror that you and your husband experienced as you contemplated what MIGHT happen to all of you! You could easily turn your deft command of the written word into a lucrative career if you ever wanted to pursue that possibility. In the meantime, I appreciate the opportunity to share in your life story as you reveal it to us in these posts each day. You are an AWESOME writer, Limey! THANK YOU for inviting us (me) into your world!

Heather said...

Holy shit. I can't believe you stayed - you are a strong woman. Amazing that you made it through such a horrible experience. I'm so glad you and your family were safe. Wow - being pg and having your daughter in the house. I can't even fathom.

What's even more remarkable is that you still obviously love the country. Awesome. Great writing, too!

Mani said...

Even though I live in Trinidad I swore never to hide Trinidad's high crime rate from my friends. But it's a dificult thing to implore my American friends to come visit when things are like this. I really applaude you for writing the story. Trinidad can't be pictued the way some want to picture it without telling about all the bad it has. Tourists getting robbed is something that happens with increasing frequency, and well, they all need to know both sires of Trinidad.

Gyul, ah glad yuh still around.