Saturday, January 14, 2012

Katie's Earthquake Memories

Katie has started sharing the notes she took the night of the earthquake and for a few subsequent days. You can read that here and here. It was painful reading for me. It brought back those days very vividly. And yet it was also fascinating, because Katie included some details about me that I don't remember at all, but that my husband confirms are right. (I knew they were right anyway, since these were notes Katie took at the time.)

It's interesting to me how the story you tell becomes the story that happened. I have told my earthquake story so many times. It's completely accurate; I started writing it down a week later. But there are details I didn't write down or speak, and so they were forgotten. For example, I didn't remember that after the woman died on the soccer field on the morning of the 13th, I went and woke up our school nurse to come and look at her and see if there as anything she could do. She ended up just confirming that the woman was dead. I remember the screaming, and the praying, and I remember another staff member sitting with the bereaved family for hours, and I remember how I cried, and felt that this was the saddest thing I had ever heard of in my life. But in my memory, I was completely passive. It's silly, but I feel a tiny bit better knowing that at least I tried to do something.

I also don't remember Katie being there when we started picking up our books and righting our bookcase. That is somehow comforting, knowing that we immediately started cleaning up. I thought we had waited longer, because I remember thinking that everything was just going to fall down again. And it is also wonderful to know, or be reminded, that we had people around us, going through it all.

One thing that made me cringe a little was Katie's remark "Ruth and the kids going." I thought I had gotten over feeling badly about leaving Haiti, but those feelings came back when I read that, even though Katie didn't comment on how it made her feel. She didn't write, "Ruth, that coward and abandoner of duty," but that's how I saw myself.

It's such a waste of energy to keep brooding over that all these months later. We did what we thought was best at the time, and my husband was able to be useful in ways he wouldn't have if we had been there, and good things came out of our months in the States. I know all those arguments, but still, when I think about leaving on the Saturday after the quake, I feel guilty. When I hear people talking about the time after the quake, as I did on Thursday when a group of us got together to pray and sing, I think, I should have been there.

I remember it so clearly. My husband said to me, "You're going."

I said, "Shouldn't we talk about it some more?"

He said, "No, you're going."

I could tell it was very important to him, because he doesn't usually make decisions like that and tell me how it's going to be. I knew it wasn't a time to dilly-dally and argue. It was a time to pack my bag and do as I was told. And then to spend six months in the US second-guessing the decision.

I am glad Katie shared this. Thank you, Katie, for being there that night and all the days since. There's just something about earthquake friends.


Katie said...

Other memory I have: sharing a box of dry cereal on the cement steps, and being pooped on by a bird right after the sun went down. At the moment that happened, I looked upward, and, as if to God, said "really?" So offended, like the bird poop was just adding insult to injury. Oh what a day. And ps- nobody thought you were a coward- you had little kids. And even people without kids left, too. Courage, dear heart! :)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Katie. I agree, the bird poop was the last straw. Love you.