Friday, May 08, 2009

The Revo Blog. Part 22

Previous posts in this series:

The time has come - how I came to the decision to blog the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 1 - background to Grenada
The Revo Blog. Part 2 - background to me
The Revo Blog. Part 3 - Feb-March 1982 (1 of 2)
The Revo Blog. Part 3a - why 'Revo'?
The Revo Blog. Part 4 - Feb-March 1982 (continued)
The Revo Blog. Part 5 - April 1982 - June 1983. London
The Revo Blog. Part 6 - June-Sept 1983. Sickness and signs
The Revo Blog. Part 7 - relationships
The Revo Blog. Part 7a - Faye's film
The Revo Blog. Part 8 - Sept - Oct 1983. Rumours
The Revo Blog. Part 9 - Oct 1983. The Last Days of the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 10 - 19th October 1983. Coup
The Revo Blog. Part 11 - 20th October 1983. Curfew. Day 1
The Revo Blog. Part 12 - early morning 21st October 1983. Breaking curfew
The Revo Blog. Part 13 - curfew continues
The Revo Blog. Part 14 - 24th October 1983. 'Back to normal' day
The Revo Blog. Part 15 - 25th October 1983. Invasion - the first 2 hours
The Revo Blog. Part 15a - Faye's journey continues
The Revo Blog. Part 16 - 25th October 1983. War - the next 4 hours
The Revo Blog. Part 16a - photos
The Revo Blog. Part 17 - 25th October 1983 - midday onwards
The Revo Blog. Part 18 - 26th-27th October 1983 - the war continues
The Revo Blog. Part 19 - 28th-30th October 1983 - more war
The Revo Blog. Part 20 - 31st October - 2nd November 1983 - defining 'normal'
The Revo Blog. Part 21 - 3rd-6th November 1983 - life goes on

Monday 7th November - contact with the outside world

H, C and I go to Immigration. Our visas are about to run out and we're terrified they might not be renewed. They need to see our tickets, so we'll have to come back tomorrow. We then spend 4 hours at Cable and Wireless as the international phone lines are operating again at last.

I speak to mum for the first time since the invasion and I'm blown away by her reaction. I expected her to be furious that I hadn't left after the coup and before the invasion as she'd pleaded for me to do at the time. Instead, she's too relieved to be angry. She tells me that she and dad have agreed there will be no recriminations until they hear what we have been through. She even understands when I say I'm not going to wave my passport and come home now.

C talks to her parents who tell her they phoned the White House and complained to Reagan's secretary about the communications blockade! It feels very strange to know our names have been on so many official lips at the exact point we were doing everything we could to stay out of sight.

We meet A, an English woman who we had met once back in the UK. She has been living in Grenville, on the other side of the island. She comes home with us and tells us her horrific story of the war spent with a group of people in Hibiscus Hotel at Grand Anse. Her tale includes the following:
  • A wounded PRA soldier joined them on the first day of the invasion. One of the others was fearful that his presence would endanger them all and insisted he leave. He is taken to Carifta Cottages.
  • On the Wednesday, they see the US vanguard for the ground forces: GIs disguised as medical students.
  • After heavy fighting, they're joined by a woman who has been shot in the head and a man with a bullet wound in his leg. They have come from Carifta Cottages and tell A and the others that the PRA soldier they sent away earlier has been killed in the battle.
  • A hysterical and terrified Cuban airport worker joins them briefly. He tells them the fighter jets mowed down the Cubans, who were frantically waving white flags on the runway.
  • A had initially decided to evacuate. She got as far as the runway at Point Salines before changing her mind. She'd had to sign a form saying that she would repay the US government within 60 days for the costs of flying her out and her passport would be marked to that effect.
Other news:
  • While we were out a representative from the Barbadian High Commission apparently came to see us.
  • A mass grave has been found at Point Salines according to foreign news broadcasts who say they are quoting a White House source. There are mentions of about 150 bodies, including possibly Maurice's. Spice Isle radio denies this. We ask the US troops but they all say they know nothing.
Tuesday 8th November

Immigration grant us a further 3 months stay with no questions asked.
Curfew has been lifted until midnight.
P tells us a grave with 4 very mashed up unidentifiable bodies has been found at Calivigny.
We hear the troops will be staying longer than expected.
During the day, soldiers come and search round the outside of the house, saying they're looking for hidden weapons.

Wednesday 9th November

A guy comes round with a load of t-shirts. On the back is the slogan:

1984 - Year of the International Airport

They were obviously pre-printed for next year, but now they have a new slogan on the front:

Thank you US for saving us

The irony and the contradictions are piling up and threaten to overwhelm us.

The Governor General announces the new interim administration.
Two GIs were killed today in Grand Anse valley.

Thursday 10th November

Lots of loud explosions - apparently they're blowing up unexploded bombs. Meanwhile, the radio says there's still fighting south of Grand Etang.

Friday 11th November

Finally, we register with the British High Commission. He says he's relieved to meet us at last. Our names have obviously been ringing in his ears over the past few weeks but he had no way of contacting us as we'd never registered our presence on the island.

We go up to St James's Hotel where all the journalists are staying. We meet Jonathan Steele, chief foreign correspondent at the Guardian. He agrees to take our remaining films, the tapes we made from the radio and also a hand written 'War Diary' that I have been compiling from my notes for our families and friends. He will deliver these back in England to the photo agency and to a friend who will type up and distribute the diary.

Saturday 12th November

The roadblock is back at the end of our road and all cars are being thoroughly searched.
Kenrick Radix has been detained - supposedly for his own safety after the family of a schoolchild killed at the fort on the 19th October threatened him.
Cuba reveals that they have received 39 bodies but that several are Grenadian and not Cuban. They ask if they can send a forensics expert to Grenada. The request is refused.
(NOTE: Though US and eventually Cuban casualty figures were later confirmed, there have never been any official and credible figures for Grenadian casualties, either military or civilian.)

Meanwhile, it's all caught up with me. I finish off writing the war diary for Jonathan Steel to deliver. The adrenalin I've been existing on for the past few weeks has drained away and the vacuum is filled with grief as I attempt to come to terms with the trauma and loss. My back and shoulders seize up and I take to my bed.

Sunday 13th November

Jonathan Steele comes round. He tells us that over 50 foreigners have been deported.
'Have they come for you yet?' he asks us.
Living with this kind of uncertainty on top of everything else is doing my head in.

Monday 14th November

Out and about.
Town is crawling with soldiers and the Ministry for National Mobilisation is filled with uniformed and plain clothes investigators.
The Grand Anse road is being repaired by Grenadian labourers supervised by US soldiers armed with machine guns.
I go to the beach alone, which at first feels like bliss but then I start to feel vulnerable. C joins me and our bags are stolen.
We go back into St Georges. The wall on Lucas Street has been repainted.

1983 - Year of Liberation.
We Welcome America.
Long live Grenada.

November continues

I'm ill both inside and out for much of this time. At one point I pass out and poleaxe on the concrete floor, raising a huge egg-shaped lump on my temple.

Meanwhile, we hear that Fort Rupert has been renamed Fort George. (Rupert Bishop was Maurice's father who was killed by Gairy's soldiers before the Revo.) The shops are broadcasting Xmas muzak and we take in the surreal sights of GIs armed to the teeth and licking ice creams. We see a demo consisting of only 4 or 5 people (!) with placards.

God Bless President Ronald Reagan

We buy a copy of a new paper, the Grenadian Voice. Ironic that the Revo was criticised for having a supposed stranglehold on the media when this paper is such blatant propaganda. Articles extol Reagan's 'courage' in coming to 'rescue' us in spite of opposition from the rest of the world. And all this when he has an election coming up. Well yes, precisely ...

Life is carrying on, but there's the beginnings of a change in the air. Many of the same people who enthusiastically welcomed the invasion now want the troops to leave so that Grenada can begin to pick up the pieces and work out where to go from here.

No chance. The Americans are here to stay and as this becomes more obvious, so the first signs of resentment creep in. From the US point of view, they're going to have to work hard to stay in control and the best way to do that is to cash in on people's vulnerability and convince them they are still at risk and in need of 'saving'.

But the message doesn't seem to have got through to all the soldiers on the ground, some of whom can't resist throwing their weight around.

IT'S HARD TO KNOW WHEN AND WHERE TO FINISH THESE POSTS. IN MANY WAYS, THERE IS NO END.

THERE'S SO MUCH MORE I COULD TELL.

  • I COULD TALK ABOUT THE DISINTEGRATING BEHAVIOUR OF THE US TROOPS.
  • I COULD TALK ABOUT THE SUBTLE AND NOT-SO-SUBTLE PROPAGANDA AND THE WAY THE US REWROTE GRENADIAN HISTORY, CHANGING PERCEPTIONS OF THE REVO AND THE US ROLE - WITH A LARGE DEGREE OF SUCCESS.
  • I COULD TALK ABOUT HOW IT FELT TRYING TO COME TO TERMS WITH LIFE UNDER OCCUPATION.
  • I COULD TALK ABOUT BEING HASSLED, QUESTIONED AND HARASSED BY SOLDIERS EACH TIME WE WENT OUT AND ABOUT HOW THAT DEGREE OF INTENSE VISIBILITY IMPACTED ON OUR DAILY LIVES.
  • I COULD TALK ABOUT THE NIGHTMARES I STARTED HAVING, STILL VIVID TODAY OVER QUARTER OF A CENTURY LATER.
  • I COULD TALK ABOUT COMING BACK TO THE UK THE FOLLOWING YEAR, WHEN THE REAL HORROR BEGAN FOR ME, WITH ISOLATION, ALIENATION AND POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DOMINATING EVERY WAKING MOMENT.
  • I COULD TALK ABOUT GOING BACK THE FOLLOWING YEAR AND SEEING THE CHANGES AND DISCOVERING THERE WAS NO LONGER A PLACE FOR ME IN POST REVO GRENADA.

I COULD DO ALL THAT AND MORE. AND THERE WOULD BE NO END. BUT THERE HAS TO BE.

WRITING THE REVO BLOG HAS BEEN VERY PAINFUL. IT HAS ALSO MEANT THAT WORK ON MY FICTION HAS COME TO A HALT. I MISS IT. AND I MISS HAVING MY BLOG FOR OTHER RANTS AND CONVERSATIONS.

SO I'VE DECIDED TO WRITE ONE MORE POST AFTER THIS ONE. THE EXPERIENCE RELAYED IN THAT POST IS ONE THAT I HOPE WILL ILLUSTRATE MANY OF THE POINTS RAISED ABOVE.

AFTER THAT I WILL COPY AND PASTE THE WHOLE REVO BLOG INTO A SEPARATE BLOG WITH LINKS AND OTHER RESOURCES.

AND THEN I WILL ATTEMPT TO RE-ENGAGE WITH MY PRESENT.

THANKS FOR STICKING IT OUT WITH ME.

12 comments:

Mrs Boob Pencil said...

Massive hugs and huge congratulations for getting through this. It's been moving and fascinating to read and I know it's cost you a lot to write. Hopefully once the final post is written you can move on and gain at least some catharsis / closure from it all.

You are amazing. Thank you. xxx

Debi said...

Mrs BP - I hope you and others know the importance of the role you have all played in enabling me to get through this time.

It's no exaggeration to say that I couldn't have got through these last few months without your support.

Thank YOU!

BarbaraS said...

Debi, I would echo what Mrs BP says, it has been an honour to follow this account of those uncertain times from a relatively impartial bystander. I know it's never been easy writing these posts, with one foot in the past and the other in the present. I think they've been marvellous. Who knows, maybe there's a book in all this ... ?

Debi said...

Babs - the important thing for me has been to ensure it's clear that the Revo was dead before the Americans invaded and the need to learn the lessons from its implosion.

I also wanted to provide a context for the welcome initially extended to the invasion ie that it represented a preferable alternative to a bloody civil war.

Having (hopefully) done that here in the blog, I can't imagine I'd want/feel able to do so in greater detail in a book.

Though never say never ...

SueG said...

It has really been a privilege to read these blogs and in this small way relive this incredible part of your life with you. I can only imagine how difficult, though important, it has been to write it up in this way. Again, thanks for trusting us all with it. I look forward to your final post, and then to what your "present" has in store for your writing. xo

Debi said...

Sue - I think finishing it is going to be nearly as hard as starting it was, but I too look forward to the next stage. Thanks for being there for me.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Debi, I can only imagine what a journey this has been for you to relive the Revo in this way. But we always do things for a reason and because we need to. I hope that despite this having been so difficult and painful it will bring whatever it was meant to bring to you.
Echoing Mrs BP and Barbara, it has been an honour following this difficult journey.
Strength to you - and thank you.

Minx said...

This was a brave and, I hope, cathartic, trip into the past. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.
Thanks, Debi - you love and light shine through, still.

Debi said...

Ab Van and Minx - thanks for traveling the road with me. xxx

morgan said...

Hi, My mum use to play a song which had the lines:

Stand up, sweet sweet Granada,
Stand firm, now your time has come,

about the revolution can u tell who's it by?

Debi said...

Hi Morgan. Luckily, I get comments emailed to me, or I would have missed this. That song was on everyone's lips when I was there, but for some reason I can't find it online at all.

morgan said...

Thanks for trying, if i find it i'll let you know,

morgan