We should honour the ordinary people who do heroic acts

Dear Editor,

Really we need to be very thankful for newspapers and the invaluable service they offer us, even though we are not always happy with how their prerogative is exercised. The many interesting, educational, informative, and human interest topics that they bring us daily are indeed priceless. Equally so are the many stimulating discussions and poignant stories that we come into contact with through the letter columns. I want to commend the Stabroek News, which in my judgment for some time now, has been carrying some rather fine pieces − articles by reporters, contributors and editorials. For example there were the editorials ‘Tears’ of Nov 7, and ‘The war in Gaza’ of Jan 9. There was the ‘Rupununi uprising’ and ‘Jonestown revisited,’ as well as three intriguing stories:- Shabna Ullah’s coverage of those four children from Mahaicony; Barrington Braithwaite’s story of Michael Jules aka ‘Porridge man’; and Hamley Cases’s letter on Christopher Stephenson’s heoric deed.

There is too the Wayne Brown column on Obama; Geralda Dennison and Ronald Austin Jr’s letters, which are often short but erudite and provide an insightful point of view from quite a different angle; there are Abu Bakr, Tacuma Ogunseye, Hamilton Green and Emile Mervin as well as others whose writing illuminates and sparkles on your pages − you can’t afford to pass them over. Then they were Norman Girvan’s “If America can elect a Black President…”; ‘The debt is unpayable,’ and as always, the sagacious Ian McDonald’s ‘I shake hands with you in my heart’ (1.2. 09); his columns are keenly crafted and are better consumed/comprehended after reading over again − at least I do.

For these and more, Editor, we need to be extremely grateful for newspapers which enliven the mind. But Hamley Case’s letter ‘Christopher Stephenson’s heroic deed should be honoured’ (1.2.09) deeply captivated me and is yet another moving human-interest masterpiece that you have allowed your readers to share. It knocks one soft, and it was this letter that triggered this letter of mine − to endose Hamley Case’s call and add my two bits.

Only a few days before seeing this letter I was making the point of honouring ordinary people who have done great things and who should really be honoured. It is sad and unfortunate that the daring, heroic and selfless acts that are carried out by simple, ordinary people are talked about only for so long after the act itself occurs, and then are quickly forgotten. The committee responsible for selecting persons for National Awards should be more sensitive, mindful and less flippant about these Christ-like acts by people such as Christopher Stephenson. They should be recognized at the highest national level. Christopher Stephenson, a young man of 27, lived in Tiger Bay with his four children; he was both mother and father to them and worked a dray cart for a living. After preparing a “modest meal for them” one morning, getting them set for school and dropping them off, he then “moved off in search of work” − please note that dear readers,  in search of work. A large crowd caught his attention; two Guyana Water Company workers were trapped in a manhole, poison gas had knocked them unconscious. Christopher defied the warning of the gathering and descended into the tunnel to rescue the men. When he brought the first man up it was clear for all to see that he too was in a critical state, yet once again he dismissed the warning of the crowd saying, “ah can’t lef he down deh.” He died after saving the other man, while both men survived. What a story! How do we repay or measure acts like these? But Christopher Stephenson is not alone; recall the man who plunged into that cesspool to save a child! It was an act that defied all reason, and just like Christopher he came up and went down once more, only unfortunately he brought the child up dead. Shouldn’t such a person be honoured and be qualified for a lifetime of free medicals? I can remember Joe Delaney, an American pro football running back who just before plunging into a pond and drowning trying to save two boys said, “I can’t swim good, but I’ve got to save those kids.”

I think that there should be an award ‘The Order of Humanity.’ And we must not forget those two Amerindian girls, eight and thirteen years old, who were lost in our frightening jungle for nearly three months, and upon coming into contact with human life at a campsite greeted the men with “Good morning/Good afternoon” in a very calm and humble manner. These are the stories that must be recorded, posted up, steadily talked about at schools, lecturers, seminars, university, churches and parliament, yes parliament! as a reminder to those who have lost touch these our unsung heroes. And here is where I stand in agreement with F. Hamley Case Jr when he writes: “Our unsung heroes are increasingly at risk. The chances of their stories being told and retold so that they endure or of their heroic acts being recorded for posterity are decidedly remote. It is a sad fact that media focus and public notice tend to be directed almost entirely to the antics and aberrations of the ‘big ones’ who enjoy most of the natural limelight and informal debate.”

Yours faithfully,
Frank Fyffe