Almost two weeks without internet connection has left me with a lot of catching up to do! Cherlie and I were in Port-au-Prince again from February 6-17 registering with the UN, gathering supplies from various organizations and suppliers, packing up some of our personal belongings from Cherlie’s house and getting the big truck ready for the road trip to Jérémie. Relief International is going to continue to use Cherlie’s house as a base camp for their clinic operations in the Carrefour area (epicenter of the earthquake) and we wanted to clear out as much extraneous “stuff” as we could. It was a challenge, since they were acquiring medications and supplies of their own, stacking them on every available shelf and piece of furniture in the house. So, it took some doing to dig through their things to clear out ours. We finally got everything sorted and packed and made an uneventful 11-hour trip out to Jérémie on Wednesday, the 17th. The road from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes had recently been paved, but the earthquake caused large fissures and areas of buckling in the pavement. We saw first-hand the destruction of buildings in the hard-hit areas of Gressier and Leogane, towns located to the southwest of Port-au-Prince on the road to the southern peninsula. From Ti Goave on to Les Cayes, however, there were very few buildings down and little evidence of the forceful earthquake that left so many families shattered and homeless. Life in the country seemed pretty normal, at least on the surface. When we spoke with people on our way, however, we realized that the devastation was not just physical – almost every family and every life had been touched by death and loss. It was sobering to realize how interconnected the country is and how widespread the impact of the events of January 12, 2010.
February 12, 13 and 14 were declared as Haitian national days of mourning one month after the tragic earthquake. Prayer services were held throughout the country and people raised their voices in praise and prayer for comfort and healing. Businesses were closed and the streets were quiet, in eerie contrast to the normal hustle and bustle of life in the capital city. It was good to take some time to reflect on the enormity of the disaster and to think about the role that the Lord wants each one of us to play in sustaining and rebuilding this country. It is very evident that it will take a massive international effort to support the life and health of the Haitian people in the months to come and to begin to clear the debris and rebuild lives, livelihoods and homes here. Hopefully, in the long run, the rebuilding will be done appropriately and the country will be better off than before. But, it will be a long, difficult process. There’s a Creole expression here similar to the “many hands make light work” proverb. There will definitely need to be many hands here!
In the past few weeks we’ve heard many stories of miraculous rescues that have taken place long after the earthquake hit. I do not vouch for their accuracy, but here are a few of them:
A group of 14 students were rescued from the rubble of a multi-story school that had collapsed. A bulldozer was beginning to clear away rubble when the driver heard distant voices. He began digging in the area of the voices and rescued the students who had been in the school’s cafeteria at the time of the earthquake. They had survived by eating food and water that they found in the cafeteria.
A man was in a food store when the earthquake hit and was buried under the rubble of the building for more than two weeks. He survived by drinking Coke and beer that was in the store aisle where he lay.
A five year-old boy was pulled from the rubble of a building 3 weeks after the earthquake. He said that even though there were dead people around him, an old man with a long white beard held him in his lap and brought him food and water every day. He felt comforted and well taken care of.
Does anyone believe in angels???