‘I begged them’

ARSONISTS have forced Karona Gocum, a resident of Walker’s Avenue in Gregory Park, Portmore, St Catherine, into a state of confusion and stress as she is now ‘sleeping rough’ after her house was destroyed during the firebombing of 11 houses in the area Saturday morning.

Gocum had to rescue her elderly mother from a burning house inside the multi-dwelling yard on Walker’s Avenue, where she also resides.

She recalled that between 3:30 am and 4:00 am on Saturday several men and women stormed the yard, poured gasoline over the furniture and physical structures, before burning the 11 houses in the yard to the ground. People who tried to escape the blaze were fired upon by gunmen said to be toting rifles and handguns, in an apparent attempt to kill them. At the end of the ordeal one man was shot dead and more than 40 people left homeless.

Gocum, who decided that she, along with her children, would not burn to death, frantically rushed with them outside and into the yard, where a lot of gunfire was taking place. It was some time after that she realised her mother, who lives in a separate house on the same property, had not been seen by anyone.

“They threw gas inside my house and I was begging them and saying that a whole lot of children live here. I told them that it was children and women inside but they threw gas on all the beds and blaze it up. I grabbed up my kids and came outside. I had to come out because I couldn’t allow me and the kids to burn up in there. I ran out and said if we get shot and dead so it would have to be,” she said.

“The house over there is where my mother was. I was beating down her door and couldn’t hear anything from her. The door couldn’t pull so I kicked it off. I went in and I didn’t see my mother on the bed, which was burnt up. She was on the ground. I panicked, but I dragged her out of the house. I got small burns just to save my mother but my mom got burnt and is in hospital. She is an old woman and in no form of way did she deserve that. Her hands were burnt up and also her face, her neck back, and close to her bottom. If I wasn’t focused on her, maybe she would have died. When I found her she did not talk or say anything,” Gocum explained.

The mother of four told the Jamaica Observer that the fire has caused her significant setback as she lost a lot of things and has since been sleeping outside. But, she was thankful to God that her mother’s life had been spared.

“I just give God thanks. Most of the time when I am outside I feel like I want to use the bathroom or lay down, and mi don’t have nowhere. I lost a lot. I lost $160,000 that I put down for my children’s back-to-school [needs], plus another $90,000 from a partner — and the people money burn up. I lost my kids’ knapsack, my furniture, the kids’ laptops and three phones, my television on the wall, and my dinner table. I sleep outside but I make special arrangements for my children. I am not scared anymore to how dem did a light the place and my kids were on the bed. God opened my brain and mind and told me to do this and do that.”

Alando Terrelonge, the Member of Parliament (MP) for St Catherine East Central, where Gregory Park is located, said over 20 children lost important documents, impacting their preparation for school next month.

“On Saturday we had a back-to-school medical aid treat. There are over 20 children who live in this yard who could not benefit from the medical examinations because their immunisation cards, passports and birth certificates were burnt,” he said