Hero hurt he couldn’t save the six
“I CAN STILL HEAR THOSE SCREAMS!” says Alvin Babb.
The popular City vendor, who tried feverishly to rescue the six young women who were trapped inside the Campus Trendz store in Tudor Street, still has vivid images in his head of Friday night’s ordeal.
Babb, affectionately known as “Tall Man”, and two others made many attempts to get inside the burning building after learning that people were trapped inside.
He said it was the constant screams from the victims that got his adrenaline pumping. But his efforts were in vain and that was when he started shouting and begging for help but none came.
Speaking from close to the scene of the fire, Babb recalled the incident to the Sunday Sun.
He said he was liming with a friend at the rear of a building close by when they saw two men wearing masks run by. That was when he sprang into action.
“The two men ran and pass the block behind there,” he said, pointing. “And when my partner made a grabble at one, the other one pulled a sword, and I said to my friend, let we go round the front and see what happened.
“And then me, my friend and Short Man tried to pull a few things out of the doorway and we could not get in because the smoke just kept pushing us out. So that is when we went up on the roof of the yellow building,” he said sadly.
Babb said he and the two other men jumped from roof to roof until they were atop the building that was ablaze. He said after ripping through the permaclad and plywood roofing with his bare hands, he came face to face with concrete.
“I hear them people screaming till they can’t scream no more . . . people lives gone . . . only if we had a axe or peck. That is all we did want, you know.
“When we done pull up the permaclad and the plywood, it was pure concrete. If I was in the hospital with a few burns but saved those people, I would have felt much better.
“All people telling me I try and do a good job; that don’t mean nothing to me right now. The more they tell me that, the more that hurt me. We could try . . . and six people dead? That is not a try, that is a fail,” he said sadly.
“We didn’t have any tools. You know what it is, being on top of a burning building and can’t help? You know what it is hearing people screaming and you can’t reach them?
“I tell you, I burst up all my leg trying to get the AC unit kicked out when I hear the women screaming but we couldn’t get in there.
“We tried to bore a hole in the back and when we done boring one side, there was a set of soft stone behind it, and that time chemicals burning from inside the pharmacy and pushing it back out.”
The Goodland, St Michael resident said after trying to gain entry through the sole entrance/exit, the roof and the back of the building proved futile, he was then forced to try entering from boring holes in the building.
“It was bare trap, you know. We even tried to bore a hole through a set of bricks and turn round and butt on some soft stone and it wasn’t moving. I even went in the store and pull out a fireman. If only, boy,” recalled Babb.
“We never had any tools, we only used we hands. Look, all my hands hurting me, my lungs, and my legs swell and my fingers sore. I ain’t even went to the doctor yet.
“I even tek off Fat Man shirt and went back in there by myself. I didn’t even know smoke could roll. It was so thick and high off the ground.”
Although Babb is today considered a hero by many for his courageous efforts, he insisted that he was not.
“I can still hear those screams, you know. I couldn’t even sleep last night and this morning somebody tell me I did a good job. I could do a good job and hurting?
“I prefer right now to be lying down in the hospital with burns pon me, even if I could have gotten out two of them people.
“You know what it is like hearing people screaming for their lives? I hear one body screaming and can’t reach them . . . screaming for three minutes . . . three minutes.
“I can’t go to sleep, I can’t go to sleep. I don’t like to fail, you know, and the worst [thing is that when I failed] people dead, you know,” said Babb as tears flowed down his cheeks.
“I don’t want to hear that!” he snapped as one man told him that he was a hero to have tried.
Babb insisted that the firefighters could have done more in their efforts to save the six lives that were lost.
“I guarantee those men [firefighters] are trained and if they did at least went up the way we went up, then they would be able to get in.
“We do something that none of those firemen did. Once you could get to the AC unit then you would be able to get inside, but we didn’t have any tools.
“The firemen are trained. If them did hear the screams then they would get in. I always believe there is always something you can do. I know there is always something you can do,” cried Babb.