No one helped
Those who loved 17-year-old Tristan Graham struggled yesterday to understand why it reportedly took so long for anyone to help after the teen clutched his chest and collapsed on his way home from school in May Pen, Clarendon, on Monday.
His older brother, Delmar Douglas, lashed out at people who took photos and videos as the teen lay dying, and a school official was reduced to tears as he spoke of the struggle other students faced in getting someone to help as their peer fought for his life on the ground.
“I’m here working hard trying to protect this country and my own little brother needed a little help and nobody didn’t help,” said Douglas, a member of the Jamaica Defence Force. “I’m told he grabbed his chest as he fell and said, ‘Help!’ But nobody was there to help him. Instead, they were just there taking pictures and videos before they assist my brother. I don’t know what’s happening in this country, why it’s becoming a part of our lives where videoing and taking pictures is more important than helping someone,” Douglas added.
He questioned what the individuals capturing the scene on their cellphones had hoped to gain, and whether they realised the grief it would bring to family members who saw the images posted on social media.
Ainsworth Kelly, the guidance counsellor at Lennon High School which Graham attended, also had questions.
“At a time when we are celebrating Child Month, when did we get to the place where a child can be on the ground suffering and adults just walk by paying scant regard to him? When did we, as a country, get to this stage?” he asked.
“The thing that struck me most was that it was alleged that he was on the ground for about 15 to 20 minutes before help came, before anybody picked him up to take him to the hospital,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“It was the students who were there with him that called me on three different occasions to say, ‘Sir, nobody is picking up Tristan.’ I had to leave school and, on my way down there, I heard that a taxi man allegedly had to be paid $500 before he decided to render any assistance,” Kelly added as tears streamed down his face.
He said that the school has been left devastated by the loss of one of its most promising young men.
“He was loved by just about every single staff member, from academic to ancillary – the entire school population loved him, and he will be missed. He was preparing for his external exams and we were looking forward to getting great results from him, and then this unfortunate thing happen,” said a visibly distraught Kelly.
Tristan’s father, Maurice Graham, told the Observer his son had no known medical condition that could have led to his sudden death. The family is awaiting an autopsy report.
The elder Graham said he was at work when he got the call that his son had collapsed and died.
“By the time I got there I saw him laying in the back of a Probox, dead. He didn’t have a history of any illnesses, and was just a nice guy who didn’t make trouble,” he said. “I was really looking forward to him completing his studies and moving on to his dream of becoming a soldier, as he had two brothers who were also serving in the army.”
Yesterday, their grief still fresh, family members fondly remembered the teen as a jovial, loving, and genuine person who had a very good rapport with all whom he had contact. He was said to be a very popular young man and played the bass guitar in the school band.
According to his teachers, he was happy to be back in the physical school setting after over one year of online classes as he was preparing for his Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams.
The school has been receiving an outpouring of support, including offers of grief counselling, from neighbouring educational institutions. And while it is appreciated, guidance counsellor Kelly, still gutted by the reported delay in getting help to Tristan, is hoping for more.
“We are appealing to Jamaica and the wider world. We need to care for our children, because they are suffering. We, as adults, have to lead by example. Can we show some love? We need to get back to that place where the community raises a child, where we are there for each other. We have lost that, and it’s a sad day in Jamaica,” he said.