Isbel Diaz Torres
It was around eight o’clock in the evening, and the park where the cadaver of my ceiba tree now lies was dark. In the dimness, a silent fire grew. The base of the tree was in flames.
“It seems that someone decided to put a match to the ceiba,” my father alerted me when he entered the house.
My alarm was evident. I really didn’t know how to react.
On one hand I noted that it was no longer a living being. The rapid devastation turned its body into a depressing spectacle. I understood the need to remove it from there.
On the other hand, I felt this was an act of savagery, disrespect and insensitivity. I was hurt just by the thought that during the night a fire would consume the thick trunk of the tree – and with impunity! The image of a carbonized stick in the morning was like a ghost.
Fortunately I didn’t become paralyzed. I immediately identified this with the sensation of impotence that overwhelmed me that morning in 2006 when they so cruelly pruned my ceiba, but I put that thought to one side.
Against my father’s objections, I brought out my camera. I went up as close to it as prudence dictated and I took the accompanying photo. The poor quality of my camera and the effect of the flash didn’t produce an accurate image of the spectacle. You don’t get a sense of the cloud of smoke, the sparks floating around or the intense brightness.
I immediately ran back into the house and called the fire department. I then went back outside, but this time with a bucket of water. It took two more buckets and a shovel to put out the flames. Once having succeeded at putting out the fire, I again phoned the fire department and canceled my previous call.
Another neighbor returned with more water to extinguish this rotten piece of wood that refused to go out. The tree kept smoking, sparkling and crackling for more than an hour.
Later I thought that the worst consequence of the fire was the potential danger it posed to the surrounding buildings. Whoever perpetrated this act of vandalism didn’t foresee the possibility of the gigantic trunk, weakened by the fire, easily giving way to the winds only to ignite and destroy the nearby homes.
Almost one year ago, in my first posting in Havana Times, I warned that the danger of the tree’s falling would be ever greater with the passing of time. And look what happened. The wood of that ceiba was soft due to the spread of termites and other plagues.
It’s the responsibility of the Forestry Service of the city to remove dead trees that represent a danger. As long as they don’t do their job, people will continue creating these types of problems that — in cases like this — can present real dangers.