I head out this morning, to return to the house my father built over four decades and to visit the community where I was born in Petion Villle.
On Route Frere, one of the larger boulevards, we come across a crowd gathered singing, crying, testifying and praising God for the fact that they are still alive, that he hasn’t forsaken them. This is the kind of spirit anyone who has been to Haiti and met average Haitian people will talk about. An unwavering faith in life, we have been blessed with life and must do the best we can. As compassion pours in from all over the world for Haitian’s suffering, their spirit shines, thankful for another day. Further along the route I barely recognize the Carribean Market, one of the larger supermarkets in Delmas. Two rescue teams, the real heros on the ground, one from Canada and the other South Florida are working to find survivors. So far two people have been rescued.
Where JODEC supermarket stood on Routes Frere in lower Petion Ville is just a pancake of rubble. A bulldozer has been clearing the debris, the smell of rotting corpses is overwhelming. Each time the bulldozer pauses a crowd descends upon the debris fighting over the goods, pulling free beauty products, cans and sometimes body parts too. A fights breaks out over the iron bars that once formed part of the building structure.
I finally make it to the site of the house my father built over the decades. A good friend is in here somewhere, amongst this mess of twisted metal and brick. Rescue teams from World Vision, one from New England and another from Los Angeles, arrives. I translate for Russ Keaton, one of the rescue workers, as he respectfully takes over from our attempts to search for our friend. He is saying that he was at the World Trade Center, that he knows how to help. That what the people have been doing so far is heroic, that they are truly courageous. I don’t expect we will find anyone alive. When a body is found it is so badly burnt we are not sure who it is. A fire must have ravaged the room after the earthquake. We can't even begin to think of clearing the debris there are still people who need help at every corner.
I move on to the the neighborhood where I was born. It has not improved in the decades since our family left, still homes with barely four walls, tin roofs, and no electricity. I visit friends here on every trip back to Haiti, and so I go again now. To find the house where my mother gave birth to me. I am met by neighbors asking for help, any kind of help, food, water, shelter. Everything is completely destroyed, I can’t make out any landmarks that allow me to identify the house. I’ve always felt a connection to this house, a one bedroom structure that always reminds me how much my parents have achieved. The house is gone. I look into the faces around me. They are here, alive, exhausted, hungry, and thirsty. There is a makeshift shelter at Ecole Methodist Frere. I have a list of places we need to visit; orphanages, schools, homes, getting around is not easy though. Sunset comes too fast.