After the shock

James Addis in Iran, 2004. (John Schenk/WV)

By James Addis in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

It was a heart-stopping moment this morning when a powerful aftershock just after 6 a.m. had me making a hasty exit out of my hotel. I was soon joined by the rest of the World Vision staff, mostly in pajamas.

Once we had recovered our breath, the conversation quickly turned to how many more fragile buildings might have been brought down.

The whole aftershock maybe lasted six or seven seconds. I’m writing at 6.30 a.m. and my heart is still pumping quite hard. It’s certainly the biggest quake I’ve ever been in, but I imagine it’s peanuts for others.

Rosmond and his son are struggling but alive. (James Addis/WV)

You can’t help feeling the people of Port-au-Prince could use a break. Yesterday, I spoke to a man named Rosmond at one of the city’s hospitals, where World Vision was delivering medical supplies. He was holding his bandaged-up son, but he had actually come to visit his daughter,who was lying on a stretcher, wrapped in multiple bloodied bandages. She had been trapped in a church building for two days before being rescued.

But it was Rosmond’s story that struck me on this occasion. He and his wife and 8-year-old son have been living on the street since the quake, sleeping on plastic sheets. He has been using the cash he had on him to buy food and water. That morning, his money had run out. It was about 3 p.m., and he and his family had not eaten all day.

In one sense, though, he was remarkably lucky. His home was built on a hillside, and he was the only one at home when the quake struck. His wife was at work and his son at a neighbor’s house. Seconds before the quake hit, he went to the outhouse. It will probably be the most fortuitous call of nature of his life. As he stepped outside, the quake hit. Three houses slid down the hillside, crashed into his home, and demolished it.

Rosmond and the outhouse remained standing.

Related posts: Exhilaration amid exhaustion (Jan. 19, 2010), In Haiti, home tugs (Jan. 17, 2010), Hard going in Haiti (Jan. 16, 2010), Haiti: Hope in the heartbreak (Jan. 14, 2010)

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