Haiti Without Walls – A Haitian’s perspective of hope

New York Times
January 1, 2011

Pétionville, Haiti

Jan. 12, 2010, 4:53 p.m., a high-magnitude telluric wave twisted the ground under our feet. In just 35 seconds about 300,000 people lost their lives and more than one million souls in three cities became homeless. How eerie the huge cloud of dust rising in the dying day over Port-au-Prince, and spreading up to this suburb of the capital. How unreal the sound of car alarms blasting under the building debris.

I believe that in all bad things there is some good — if we take a moment to look, if we don’t miss the essential. Often I ask myself, was there any good in that earthquake? And then I remember the first minutes, the few hours, the two days right after the shock. Before foreign aid workers arrived loaded with survival kits and good will. Before greed turned misery into business opportunities.

In that moment, our country was on her knees; we were on our knees. It felt as if we had lost a mother. And when we looked one another in the eyes, we all felt the same thing — we were struck by the same calamity. We were a people lost in a tremor but united by a common fate.

For the first two or three days after the earthquake, we relied on one another to save the lives that could be saved, however few there were. With bare hands, survivors pulled the wounded from concrete and iron, then drove them to hospitals, or pushed them there in carts, or carried them on their backs. We shared our food and water. Money, for once, was not important, nor were last names or skin color. For a brief and enlightening moment in our lives we experienced the true meaning of brotherhood.

I want to keep forever in my mind those nights when we slept in yards and empty lots, on sidewalks or in the middle of streets. It was possible to sleep in the open without fear, for we understood for the first time that the walls and gates we used to hide behind meant nothing — they lay everywhere like crumpled paper. Those nights, the stars were very beautiful; they told us to go on living.

And although this year has been a litany of hardships, although we have known the wrath of storms, the terrors of the cholera epidemic, the frustration of being locked in an incredible political stalemate since the presidential election, I think we should remember the lessons of the earthquake. Only in fellowship can we rescue Haiti’s dream from destruction.

— KETTLY MARS, novelist whose short story has appeared in the collection “Haiti Noir”

3 Responses to “Haiti Without Walls – A Haitian’s perspective of hope”

  1. Jim Gulley Says:

    Dr Jim Smith:
    Thank you for posting this beautiful reflection. It encourages us to seek that sister- and brotherhood, together. Thanks for your dedication, service and companionship with Haitians. See you in Haiti some day.
    Jim Gulley

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