Dana's writings

…On January 12th when the earthquake struck Haiti.

In Haiti on January 5, 2020 at 9:11 pm

..As we experienced the smaller aftershocks, people tried to help one another and to reach out to their loved ones, a young girl was running and crying hysterically to the point that it took her a while to recognize her brother she was so desperately seeking. People were in shock. It started to be dark. My father decided that we would walk home before it became impossible for us to walk the streets. We abandoned the car with everything in it and started walking the 12 miles it would take. I remember looking back and asking myself, how did my world turn upside down so fast. I had no idea how right I was.
The streets were full of children looking for parents, parents crying for their children, partners looking for their spouses, trying to find each other, trying to make it home. It was almost as if it was Mardi gras. As we walked, I started to understand the impact of the quake. It was eerie to see abandoned new shiny, bloody, expensive cars in the middle of the street. Panic set in, and people had just left their vehicle. Everywhere the view was the same. People were crying; the buildings destroyed; dead bodies paved the streets of Port-au-Prince amongst cars, rubble, and trash. At times, I would hear my phone vibrate, and when I checked, it was either a missed call or a text. My texts and my calls would not go through. I was finally able to speak to two of my friends. One, in particular, Tania made it all feel real. Although her cries brought my emotions to the surface, I had to repress all my feelings. I had a single focus, and it was to make it home safe with my parents through the chaotic streets of Port-au-Prince as fast as possible while assisting those we could without equipment, tools, or support. We were in survival mode, and I slowly became blind to the horrors I was facing, for it was the only way to stay sane.
As I was nearing my neighborhood, we stopped at a neighbor’s house to check on them. Her brother tells me that she was still teaching at the University Quisqueya and that the building had collapsed on them. I tried to call, she picked up, and she was alive. She told me that she was making the 20 miles from the campus to her home on foot with a friend and that she was fine for the most part. We hugged everyone and headed home. As we neared the house, we saw our neighbors standing in the street, talking. As we approached them, Fred, my neighbors’ son says, “My house is pretty much on top of yours” I got scared for my dogs, and I ran home. They welcomed me at the gates, they were terrified, and my cats were not too far away. The house was still standing, but my neighbors’ dining room was in my driveway.
My mother and I decided to gather everything we could for us to withstand the chilly nights in the front yard and share with those in need, while my dad and his friends roamed the neighborhood to help those who were still alive under the rubble.
For hours we felt aftershocks one after another, a particularly strong one caused the house to squeak and the ground to move like surface waves of the ocean. My mother screamed for me to get out. I ran into my father in the driveway, rushing to get to us in case of further collapse. We quickly ran to the gates and waited for the aftershocks to stop. They never did, another smaller one followed; more of my neighbor’s home fell in the driveway.

After what seemed like an eternity, the calm returned, and we resumed transporting necessities such as chairs, sheets, comforters, food-stuff, water, matches, flashlights, and candles near the front gates as far away from the house as possible to set-up camp for the night.

A few neighbors with their families joined us, and we settled a small camp in the gateway for the night. We turned on a low battery-operated radio and tried to hear any piece of information that could help us deal with the earthquake and the shocks. At some point, one news station reported that it was not over yet. Rumors of a tsunami caused further panic as all tried to confirm the news without cell phones, live radios, or electricity. I then knew that sleeping would not be possible that night. We needed to remain alert should we need to run to safety, although I remember thinking I wasn’t sure what that meant anymore, or where exactly was safe at that moment. We kept a close watch for looters, the cries of those in pain, or slowly dying to offer help.
As time went on, we listened to the radio, rationed our food, moved when aftershocks felt stronger, helped injured and displaced people with food, water, clothing, and whatever medical aid we had available. We argued and tried to make sense of the situation, and we decided to communicate with loved ones. In short, that night, we tried to survive and helped others survive. We were confused, lost, scared, helpless, and hopeless in the face of such tragedy. We stayed up until the morning when it was bright enough, so we became less worried about criminals and looters. We tried to start another day.

The following day proved to be much like the previous night, a time of survival, despair, and pain. However, the error grew upon realizing that those stuck in their homes whom we were talking to all night, encouraging them to hold on, would ultimately die slowly and painfully. They would die alone and scared while their families cried in agony, as we were all helpless to prevent the inevitable. For the first time in my life, I remembered thinking that maybe this time, it was it.

I wondered how we would make it out of this nightmare. My Haiti, my Port-au-Prince, my people, our homes, our friends, families, and neighbors were dead for gooThe earthquakes helped get rid of so many Haitians, so many laughs, so many dreams, so many aspirations, and so many futures. That morning, I felt my hope faltered, and my spirit crumble. Yet again, as we reached the car and the sun rose over the hill highlighting the tragedy around me, I saw a floating Haitian flag in the distance then my heart whispered Carole Demesmin’s famous words…

” Ou pa de bout ranyon ki san siyifikasyon, ou se zantray nèg lakay.

Depi ou ap flote kou zansèt yo pale kè Ayiti tranble.

Men si nou fin tonbe nou gen pou nou leve nou pa gen kè kase depi’w blayi nan syèl la

Nou renmen’w pou tout tan drapo’n manman cheri.”

— Carole Demesmin, Hymne au Drapeau


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