During the height of the AIDS epidemic, there was a standing joke among my cousins and my siblings: if anyone asks, “where are you from?” say you’re from Martinique not Haiti, anywhere other than Haiti. Although we joked about it we never denied our heritage. We are proud to be Haitian. Many friends and aquaintences have called me this week to see how my family fared after the earthquake. One of whom was my old college friend the insideplaya. He encouraged me to try to put into words how I felt about the plight of Haiti.
The images of death and destruction stain the mind for hours. Unlike a computer, the brain is not able to calculate and give a logical answer in response to the stream of information given. What? Haitian earthquake. When? Tuesday, January 12th 2010 at 5:00 PM in the evening. Magnitude? 7.0. Casualties? Still processing. There may never be an accurate count.
The island nation of Haiti has been the focal point of the collective media’s coverage this week. The eyes of the world are trained on the small Caribbean nation. The devastation hit a country that is already incapable of properly serving it’s citizens. Decade after decade, major events continue to happen; dictators, millitary coups, violence, famine, floods and the rest. It never seems to end, but this week makes those other disasters look like child’s play. Rich and poor, educated and uneducated are affected. What next? All they can do is wait. Wait for assistance, wait for supplies to arrive, wait for medical care, wait for the nightmare to end. For thousands it is just the beginning. Their lives are gone, families erased, histories wiped out and ancestry vanished. The death toll increases, and the question lingers: am I next?
There is no going back to normalcy anytime soon. What used to be routine has just collapsed under the weight of a mound of stone, steel, flesh and blood. People can’t work, worship, study or shop. All of the trappings of regular existence have been swept away, and now begins the process of putting a nation back together.
For the individual, a life of any kind will be difficult to piece together. Even the simple task of finding identifying documentation for you or a loved one can be impossible because government agencies are in the same state you are in. Why? Because unlike when other disasters happened this hit the island’s nerve center and capitol, Port-au-Prince. What does this mean? It means that even though other parts of the country were not hit by the quake, they will feel the effects of the quake for some time to come. In Haiti all roads lead to Port-au-Prince, it is the lifeline of the island.
As a former citizen of New Orleans, I heard many stories that came out of Katrina. After several months of frustration, people leaving their homes without their important papers had to go through Baton Rouge or national agencies to replace them. Horror stories about the conditions in the Superdome abounded. Survivors were treated like animals and animals they became before they left that place. The Haitian disaster stories are a hundred times worse because the Haitian foundation and infrastructure were weaker to begin with. Earthquakes strike without warning, and the people of Haiti had no time to gather important items nor were they able to set meeting places. There was no plan in case of emergency, no chance to run for shelter or an alternative power grid to back up an already nonexistent one. In an instant, life was definitively altered.
As I sit here safely at home, surrounded by loved ones, and the mementos of a lifetime, I am fairly certain that a catastrophic disaster of the kind that has struck the island that my family can trace it’s roots to will most likely not happen in New York. I cannot avert my eyes from the TV screen. I am many miles away, and like many others I ask; what can I do? Everything and not enough. My greatest resource is prayer, and going to the throne of grace and asking for mercy is a powerful tool that I have not hesitated to employ since I first heard the news of the disaster. But it is not enough, faith without work is dead. However, collectively we can make a difference. Through both prayer and action we can make a contribution that when added to what others send, can help to end the suffering.
Right now the need is both immediate and long-term. I am looking forward to the months and years of reconstruction ahead of the Haitian people. Please give now, and give whatever you can; water, non-perishable items, such as; tarps, toiletries, food, etc. All will be appreciated, but what is most needed is cash! Please continue to give cash over the next weeks, months and years.
These organizations have a long-standing relationship with Haiti and are trustworthy.
Doctors Without Borders
Save the Children
Partners In Health
Food for the Poor.
So, as I prepare for my Sunday worship services, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti, and I have faith that the newly formed alliance of Presidents Clinton and Bush will do great work for Haiti, and help to get her back on her feet. So I ask from my heart that you continue to pray for the strength and safety of the Haitian people, and to send what you can, as often as you can, for as long as you can. She will need a strong hand of assistance before she can walk on her own again.
Josy Ann Dussek Dunne