Apologies if these upcoming posts seem unpolished…that is because they are…we barely have time to write and internet is patchy so I will do what I can to get out information but I don’t promise eloquence.
Love to you all and know that we are safe and taking precautions.
Last night we (myself, Cat Laine, Paul Namphy, Wisnel Jolissaint, Lisius Orel and Baudeler Magloire) arrived in Port-au-Prince just before sunset. As we came into the city with our truck piled full of water, gas, shovels and food we got a flat tire. The news reports of looting have been so exaggerated that we were concerned that a mob of people might come take everything before we even made it into the city. I am pleased to report that, as per usual, reports of violence in Haiti are largely disinformation. Yes, we did hear shooting late last night, and yes we did see a fight over a mattress at a camp in the city but our overall impression has been sheer amazement at the solidarity displayed by communities.
We drove into the city past the airport and along Delmas 33. Initially it looked like about 1 in 5 houses had sustained damage and perhaps 1 in 20 had completely collapsed. However as we got father in towards Delmas the damage looked much more severe with perhaps 1 in 5 buildings completely collapsed. I have never seen anything like this, honestly it is hard to even feel. People have not even begun to mourn as everyone is still in a state of crisis. As we drove by the police station on Delmas 33 we saw someone carrying a severed foot of a police officer out of the wreckage…I barely even blinked…everything is so surreal.
We went straight to Matthew 25, a guesthouse which remained relatively untouched by the quake. We went to locate our friend Amber who has been helping to coordinate volunteer efforts. We are so grateful for the way in which we have been received by the guesthouse, they immediately allowed us to remove all of the materials from the car and invited us to sleep in the backyard (no one is sleeping inside as the aftershocks have continued over the past few days). I was so amazed to run our dear friend Ellie Happel at the guesthouse. She flew in from NY the day after the quake to help with relief.
Once we had unloaded the car we all went with Marcorel to see his family in Jake. When we arrived it was already dark and there were people sleeping everywhere in the streets. As we waited for Marcorel to make his way through the camp to locate his family we saw several young men from the neighborhood setting up a large light rigged to some batteries. As light flooded the crowd of people they burst into song. Songs of solidarity, songs of grief, songs of thanks that they had survived. We followed Mako through the blankets and makeshift tents to where his family (8 brothers and sisters and his mom and dad) huddled together on a pile of blankets. They were so happy to see him and we all piled into their bed and Ellie, Paul, Cat and I were each handed a baby. The singing continued in the background as Marcorel’s family told the story of where they each were when the quake hit.
After leaving the camp we visited the site where Caribbean Market once stood. As I stared in disbelief at the pile of concrete and twisted shopping carts I remembered my many trips to this market over the years. I remember that Caribbean market was the first place that I visited on my own in Port-au-Prince, cautiously walking through the streets in 2004 by myself, not speaking any Kreyol, knowing only the market. To see it in ruins was unimaginable. American FEMA firefighters were still picking through the rubble. They said that they were still hearing voices inside and that they had been working for 30 hours without a break.
Around 8:30 we headed back to the guesthouse where we were incredibly blessed to have access to power and fruit. I could barely blink my eyes, the lids so heavy with exhaustion and shock. After several coordination meetings we finally tumbled into sleep, all of us gathered in the backyard, under the stars, sleeping to the sound of the songs of grief.