I must be remarkably insensitive to aftershocks. Colleagues keep saying, “Did you feel that one? Where were you at X p.m or Y a.m.? Did you feel it?”
I must confess I haven’t felt a darn thing since the aftershock a few days ago [Jan. 20]. My biggest concern is a really big quake in the dark. I’ve been sleeping with a flashlight in my hand. The thought of fumbling for it in the inky blackness does scare me a bit. But once I’ve got the flashlight firmly clenched in my left hand, I sleep like a baby.
Friday was a bit of a quiet day. I managed to phone my wife in Seattle and my parents back in New Zealand. It was so good to hear their voices.
Another moving moment was watching some children of World Vision staff in Haiti being evacuated. They had turned up to the office to say their final goodbyes before taking the trip to the airport.
I spoke with Jhonny Celicourt, World Vision Haiti’s communications manager, whose wife and 4-year-old daughter were evacuated a few days earlier to Florida. His mother lives in Orlando. Up until that point, his family had been camped out in a tennis court opposite his home. His house did not collapse but was seriously damaged during the quake. Despite all the upheavals—and a seriously distressed daughter—Jhonny has been faithfully turning up to work every day. Indeed, the day after the quake, having not slept a wink all night, he joined a team delivering medical supplies to city hospitals that were absolutely swamped with quake victims.
Later, I got out to a homeless camp, about a five-minute drive from World Vision’s Port-au-Prince office. I met Fabiola St. Juste. She does not like being there very much.
The 8-year-old sleeps on a particularly rocky patch of ground that was once part of a grassless soccer field in Petionville. She sleeps on an old piece of carpet but complains that when she lies down, it still feels hard and cold.
A few days ago, Fabiola’s only protection from the elements was provided by thin, torn, roughly tied bed sheets suspended by odd bits of lumber. It provided some protection from the sun but was useless against the rain. Three families—15 people—slept, ate, washed, and socialized in the crudely constructed tent.
Fabiola hated the fact that it was so crowded. “There was not enough room to eat or sleep. There was not enough room to do anything,” she said emphatically. Even so, she would not risk going back into her home, which suffered structural damage but was not destroyed in the earthquake.
If there’s one bright spot in the grim picture, it followed a World Vision distribution of tarpaulins, cooking utensils, and hygiene kits to the hundreds encamped on the soccer field. Fabiola considers the tarps to be the most helpful thing because they keep the rain out.
Related posts: After the shock (Jan. 20, 2010), 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)