Musings on Sandy: “What Haiti Can Teach Us About the Storm”
It’s a sunny day in Port-au-Prince, but we’re watching weather updates anxiously as Sandy continues to head north, towards the homes of our friends and family members along the east coast. Our hearts are with you!
If you’d like some reading to take your mind of the storm, we recommend this interesting article by our friend Jonathan Katz, the former AP journalist for Haiti: “What Haiti Can Teach Us About the Storm” in the Daily Beast.
Having lived through one of the worst disasters imaginable, Jonathan M. Katz argues that the Haitians offer a good example of how to behave.
Fears of wanton lawlessness, panic, and doom follow most every natural disaster, but they almost never come true. In fact, the myth itself is potentially a greater danger—prone to impeding efforts when help is needed most. I know this, because I lived though one of the worst disasters imaginable.
On Jan. 12, 2010, I was inside my house in the hills above Haiti’s capital when the floor dropped and the walls began to crumble. In less than a minute, the deadliest earthquake ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere tore through a metropolitan area of three million, destroying infrastructure, knocking out an already feeble power grid, impaired an already fragile food supply, and killed an estimated 316,000 people. Countless more were injured or made homeless.
As people around the world rallied to Haiti’s aid, they brought the same fears that Drudge and Rodgers are stirring now: that survivors—especially, as the myth often has it, poor, black survivors—are bound to panic, loot, or react with violence. This fear over looming anarchy is part of what prompts authorities to favor a military-led response. At home, that means mobilizing thousands of National Guard units. In Haiti nearly three years ago, that concern is much of the reason that the U.S. military was the leading presence in the quake zone for months after the aftershocks subsided—22,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines deployed at the height. A panic over impending chaos also fueled the civilian response, with aid groups pleading for donations on exaggerated descriptions of a disaster zone with “no food” and “no water,” prompting kind-hearted donors to flood the zone with an uncoordinated barrage of bottled water, latex gloves, and in one weird case, wooden hand puppets.