Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Story, Continued

There are so many stories from this earthquake. Each family has its own, its tale of "What if I had been there a few minutes longer?" or "If only it had been different." I have heard many, many, and could share them, saying "One of my seventh graders..." or "One of the employees from school...", but Tara Livesay said it best the day after the quake:

There is no way to even begin to share the things we’ve heard and seen since 5pm yesterday. To do so would take hours that we don’t have to give right now. Some of them feel wrong to tell. Like only God should know these personal horrible tragedies.

(Tara is still in Haiti: you can read her blog here.)

Ultimately all I have is my own story, so I'll tell that one as best I can.

The morning after the earthquake, we went home. Our house seemed fine but it was still terrifying to be inside it. There were eleven people sleeping in our yard that first night, but one soon left to walk to Jacmel, where his family was living. I still don't know what he found when he got there.

That day was spent mostly hitting redial on my phone, hanging out with the people in the yard (including three small children, a three year old, a nearly two year old, and a one year old), listening to everyone's story again and again. Children pulled from under falling blocks, babies handed out of windows, a church collapsing full of people gathered to pray. I played games with the kids, found food for people, picked up some things off the floor (though it seemed pointless to do so, since surely they would just fall again, as the earth kept shaking and shaking).

Our plant manager came over and left with my husband, and they drove around doing whatever they could, finding out what needed to happen next. My husband came home and told me a little about what he saw, and cried. Someone went out to see what vegetables were for sale, and came back and told what she had seen, and cried. Trips were made to find relatives who hadn't been heard from, and people kept coming to the gate all day, reporting that they were alive, reporting on those they knew of who weren't.

That night we all slept in the kids' rooms, but I couldn't sleep at all; I fell asleep for a while because I was just exhausted, but soon woke up in a panic. The tremors continued, and even when they weren't going on, the earth felt as though it was moving. Early in the morning I went outside and prayed with the people in the yard, and felt comforted, a little.

Some time on Thursday morning, my husband showed up with four women with suitcases. They were a work team from North Carolina who had arrived in the airport minutes before the earthquake. They were waiting in the truck for the pastor who had come to pick them up. He had gone inside to check on some late luggage, and while he was in there the earth shook, and the ceiling started to fall in big chunks, and some people were hit, and he stretched out on his face on the ground and cried and prayed. Meanwhile the ladies at first thought the truck was shaking because the red caps (porters) were not happy with the tips they had received, until they saw the trees moving too, and realized what was happening. They spent that night in a field and delivered two babies (one of the women was a dentist but that was the most medical training anyone had). They said the people in the field praised God all night long.

We talked a lot, sharing what we had all been through, played games, shared food. Sometime that day I turned on a power strip upstairs to charge my cellphone (which had still never connected in spite of my constant pressing of redial). We still had some juice in our batteries; in this one very limited way, people living in Haiti were better prepared than people in the US would be, since those who can afford it already have backup to city power. We work with inverters, car batteries that charge up when city power is on or when we run the generator. Our wireless connection was on the same power strip so I decided to check to see if the internet was working, though I was sure it wouldn't be. It was. I started to send out emails. At that point the phones were not working and we were sending emails or Facebook messages to people within the country. I was able to talk to some people from my family. They had known we were OK from about 8 PM Tuesday, since a staff member with an AT&T phone had been able to get a text message to her mother with my parents' phone number. Even so, they were relieved and happy to get to talk to me.

The NC ladies stayed at our house that night. People in the US were working on getting them out of the country. On Friday they went to the airport at some point and returned because the flight didn't go. At some point on Friday my husband and I started talking about whether the kids and I should leave. We realized that resources were going to become a problem very quickly, and anyone who wasn't contributing directly to the relief efforts was just draining supplies. We went back and forth about it; there were arguments on both sides. The main argument for staying was that we have stayed several times when others have been evacuated, and we know too well that feeling of abandonment you have when others go. I didn't want to cause that feeling for anyone else.

Sometime on Friday a doctor came to the house. He is related to the family living in our yard and I knew him already. He had come from the south to check on the family and had found that there were many people where he was staying begging for help. He had the skills to help them but no supplies, and he asked if I had anything. I said I didn't, but when I went in the bathroom and started pulling out supplies, I had more than I realized. Ibuprofen, antiseptic wash, gauze pads, even a pair of gloves. He laughed and said it was like a pharmacy at my house. The NC ladies had some supplies, too, although they had used most of their stuff during their time in the field. I also wrote him a note to the nurse at school to ask her to give him some gloves.

At some point (I keep using that phrase, but really the chronology is very vague in my mind and I think I was mostly in shock during this time), my husband heard about some extra seats on the flight that the NC ladies were going to use. It turned out that a NASCAR owner, Rick Hendrick, had sent his private plane to be used by MFI for evacuating people. (Read more about that here.) My husband informed me that if he could work it out, we were leaving. I said I thought we should talk about it a little more and he said, "We aren't going to talk about it. You're going." (This isn't the way he usually talks to me.) He went over to school to make contact with the MFI people and see if he could get the children and me on the flight.

For a long time he didn't return, and finally I walked over to school to look for him. It was getting dark, and again I saw that our neighborhood was very much as usual. The only difference was that there were many, many people in the road, setting up to sleep the night there.

When I arrived on campus I saw people on the soccer field. The CRI trauma team had just arrived and I gave Theo, the leader of the team and one of our former students, a big hug. The overall feeling on the campus was one of peace. Peace and purpose. It was the first time I had felt peace since the quake.

I talked to my husband and found out we were to leave on the flight, and we could each pack a small bag.

I'll continue the story in another post.

1 comment:

kaenhu said...

Thank you for sharing. I am so grateful you are telling others your story.