Port au Prince, Haiti Day 8, Trip 3

We’ve been in training all week–moving around much more than before. A colleague and I are training a staff support team to provide full time and long term support to the local employees who are affected by the earthquake.

Affected is such an understatement:

Today we drove into work a little late, and passed through the road we are actually not supposed to drive on. Everything is collapsed; some of the buildings hang precariously towards the road. A big enough tremor or a hard enough rain and they could crush traffic moving alongside or under them. It will be years before this area is clear—-so far, only locals with small tools are seen working through the massive piles of rubble.

A crowd was beginning to gather, and peer down the hill. We were late for work so we continued on the remaining five minutes, thinking nothing of it.

Thirty minutes later, one of our team members arrived. Her eyes were moist. She sat down and bowed her head. “They just found more bodies.” She began to weep. “When will this be over?

When we looked, there was a skull hanging from a tree, waiting to be identified. The four bodies were carefully laid out on sheets, barely recognizable as human. She shared how they were talking about one of the heads, whose fuzzy, matted hair still clung to it. The crowd mused aloud whether it was a woman, or a rasta.

One body was birdlike. The skin and sinew had stretched — almost as if it had melted. The contraction and apparent webbing created an image of a suffering pewter colored bird. Wings contracting and expanding at the same time. The nose on the decaying face seemed bird-like. No eyes. Hands tightly clenched, claw-like. Fingers now a mass of dark leather. The tension of a horrible death. Another appeared to be a child. Now just a mass of clothes and leathery segments of limbs. The children looking on cried, as did a woman. Had she known them? Did she know their names? Their ages? What did she know about these lives?

Later, the smell of smoke and burning human. Now, locals burn the bodies they find–there is no-one assisting with the remains of these precious lives. They are piled up, burned, and ashes scattered. We breathe them in, perhaps one way their memories will go on. We can carry a trace of them in us.

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