Port au Prince, Haiti Day 3 Trip 2

Today was a “day off” (whatever that means in this situation) and I spent it with dear friends who have just returned home after evacuating their children to schools elsewhere. I had planned to sleep a little longer than unusual, but awoke to the lovely sound of early morning rain…and as I began my habitual “snuggling” deeper into the comfort of my bed, I suddenly remembered where I was.

Rain! Shit. Its pouring. I ran downstairs, crying, because I know many people sleeping on the streets, comforting children on the streets, every formerly open space in this city a sea of makeshift tents with little to no protection against the elements. I ask the my friends nanny if the rain is everywhere, crying, I ask what is everyone going to do in this rain? She replies that she has already called down to her children who live in a tent on Delmas and there is no rain there–Don’t cry, Madame Amber, the rain is only here. It will be ok. We are ok, today.

I am struck by the reality that she is comforting and consoling me when her own children have no real home to stay dry in. And I am learning that these stories of caring and compassion are common here.

My friends and I drove around the entire city this afternoon—-downtown, champs de mars, juvenat, pacot, la saline, canape vert, delmas. Everywhere, everywhere, gaping holes where familiar buildings once stood, some cleaned up quickly by early responders, others still a massive pile of concrete pieces and assorted papers, furniture, statues, wires, etc. In some places, the stench of decomposition and feces is still thick. In other places, people bathe in mud puddles in the middle of the road.

Everywhere, their is dust and despair.

We visited the building that once stood beside my own home in Juvenat, the same building where the young man I worked with on my first visit lay trapped for 15 hours, listening to the last words of his mentor and two of his mentors three children. I learned that the children’s mother, who I met many years ago, was driving up Delmas when the earthquake happened, and because all traffic stopped, ran for two hours to her home on the other side of town. When she arrived to a collapsed building she began to dig with her bare hands. When the young man was freed, they began to dig together, and others appeared to help, including a rescue team. In the space of 48 hours she dug and dug, and she freed a nanny and her baby daughter, whose legs were broken. As they dug deeper and it became obvious that her two children and husband lay deep in a labyrinth of rubble, the rescue team declined to help, because the building was too unstable in the ongoing aftershocks. Two “passers by” from the neighborhood ended up helping her. For 36 hours they dug themselves into the rubble, climbing into the bottom layers of the collapsed building, to help this complete stranger find her family. She offered them every piece of jewelry she had on, her clothes, money—they refused. “Please Madam–we will help you find your family.” They freed the bodies of her husband and one child; they were unable to find her third child.

Today we met an American rescue and recovery team who are now trying to find her oldest child’s body so she can join her family when they are laid to rest. I listened as they asked my friend to describe the lay-out of the apartment so they could get to the room where the dead child lay.

Is this real? I can’t even grasp what I am hearing. They are describing her car, which they have seen down in there, and their attempts to retrieve a few personal things, to safely remove what is left of a child, and to return home to their own families, who demand “they come home without a scratch.” They are parents, too, many miles from home, in an unfamiliar place, digging for the pieces of lives shattered over a month ago.

Tonight, its raining again

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