Earthquake- 9 Years Later
It has been 9 years since the earthquake of 2010 attacked Port-au-Prince while I felt its distant rumbles in the Haitian highlands. Today I think about the lives that this social-ecological disaster took, the life paths of survivors that it irreversibly altered, and the way this all influenced the way the world sees Haiti.
I wrote the following while at Matthew 25 House in Port-au-Prince, three days after the 2010 Earthquake that killed 300,000. While my knowledge on Haitian-American interactions has grown and my understanding of the complexity of this disaster and its many causes have evolved since then, the emotions of that day resonate with me still:
Yesterday, I was handed a mask as we pulled into the city. “Oh yes, for the dust probably”, I thought in my naivety. When I asked, the answer was not as easy to swallow. “The bodies… it has been three days”. And so it had been, the smells began to seep in through the windows.
It is Armageddon here. Everything you could imagine in a Hollywood production, but worse. Televisions only attack your sight and hearing. News cannot portray the screams, the death. It is a death that fills your lungs and seeps into your skin.
Before today, I had never seen a dead body. Of course, I have been to a few wakes. But the same is always said, “Oh, how they look so peaceful.” My first sighting was as we drove past pickup trucks leaving the city, men throwing families into pickup trucks, motionless. We passed buildings, rubble, wounded. I took some pictures. Some things were too horrific to, I did not want to capture. And then we reached where the hospital once stood. The sidewalks (or at least where sidewalks should be) supported lifeless figures, naked, blank. People walked by without a turn of the head. This was not a spectacle, and in the last three days they had seen much worse. The medians of only four feet in width transformed into campgrounds for families, both wounded and healthy. Parks harbor tens of thousands. There is no water.
And still the American response here is not as glorious as I hear from domestic news in the States. America is deceived. Yes, supplies have arrived, and the support is amazing from the American people, but little has been distributed. It waits at PAP airport, sitting there until the movie stars can arrive in their private jets to take pictures and get their publicity. I doubt they walk out of the parking lot.
Despite this news, my view of the human race is improving drastically. As an American, this is so foreign to me. I have been here for weeks and I still am floored by the faith of the Haitian people. You hear that? Amidst the cries of the night? That is praise. That is thousands of wounded singing to God hymns of worship, drenching the concrete with their own blood.
Today, I have awoken to a shining sun in the rural village of Layaye. It is almost as if the world has decided to stretch, yawn, and awake after three days of slumber. And yet, the rays bring no peace. The increased visibility only shines light on the amount of destruction of the days passed. Some of the phone lines are opened, finally. For some, sighs of relief are audible as they hear that everything is fine with their families. For others, the ineffable mourning has begun.
Father Illric’s sister is alive. His cousin, cousin’s wife, and two small children have left the world. Franz’s house, which he has been saving for his whole life, is destroyed. His wedding will have to wait more years. Many, many lives are lost. Many children, many mothers, many people with souls, blood, flesh.
Dear God, may this not be just another tragedy in the history of Haiti. It is a dark history, where hints of light are snuffed out before they may ignite into flames.
As the sun rises today, may the world turn its eyes to the western third of this island, rays illuminating mountains and valleys slowly with the rotation of our planet. May the cries be answered and may the existence of this land be acknowledged. May the food, clean water, health care, and shelter these people have needed for their entire lives finally be met by Christian brothers and sisters around the world. Today, with sun showing all, exposing the scars and new gashes in her body, may America and the world not turn their eyes away. Today, for the first time, the world sees her sister Haiti.
I love you and am thinking of you all,