It has been about two months since the devastating disaster that hit the country of Haiti but it may as well be two weeks. The aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 is still a major problem for the country and its citizens.
Many Haitians are stuck without a place to stay, food to eat or medical attention. Disease is everywhere because of the dead bodies that are still on the streets.
“I have seven brothers and sisters who currently live in Haiti. They live outside on the street after the earthquake. They have not been able to relocate and we’ve tried everything to provide them with the best necessary help that they can get right now to eat or to just survive basically because some of the help doesn’t get to them,” Martine Saint-Vil said.
Saint-Vil moved to the United States when she was 17 in order to further her education. When she heard about the earthquake, she thought that her family was not going to make it. Thankfully, they survived and her brother-in-law, Walter Jean-Louis, arrived in the United States and explained what he experienced first-hand in Haiti.
Jean-Louis does not know English; Saint-Vil translated for him. “I have to tell you that it was a horrible scene to watch. Having to watch this earthquake and seeing the houses crumbling on top of people was really hard to see,” Jean-Louis said.
Jean-Louis was at a cyber café in Port-Au-Prince with seven of his friends right before the earthquake happened. It was when he stepped outside of the café that tragedy struck.
“I was waiting for a car, a taxi, to come. That’s when I felt the ground, you know, movement and it started slowly and then rushes really fast. At the time, I thought the earthquake was for 15 minutes. Even though it was just for 40 seconds, but it felt like it was for 10-15 minutes and I think everyone who were there felt the same way also,” Jean-Louis said.
Thousands of people ran for their lives as their world came crashing down on top of them. Many important buildings in the Haitian government collapsed including the Palace of Justice and taxation office, in which many perished.
After the earthquake, Jean-Louis explored the horrifying aftermath. “After that I walked around different sites, different streets and it was breathtaking to see the people on the street, the cadavers on the street so it was really hard,” Jean-Louis said.
His friends at the cyber café did not make it out alive. “All of them that were inside, they all died and the next day when I went back, I see all of them on the ground,” Jean-Louis said. “What I witnessed the day after at the Palace of Justice was that they put out seven people that were inside that were dead. One of the lawyers who was there who was a close friend of mine, he died. He was inside the palace when that happened.”
Among the buildings to collapse were schools. Many children were trapped under the heavy rubble without a way to get out. Jean-Louis remembered hearing the children crying for help under rubble. A countless number of children lost their parents and entire family leaving them orphaned.
“The help came, but a little slow,” Jean-Louis said. “We waited for the Red Cross who provided help, but of course the international community had to travel from the Dominican Republic to get to Haiti, which made it a lot difficult for the people who needed help to receive it quicker and faster and it’s still hard, you know, because we don’t know how many people died and to this point I’m sure there are a lot of people still under the crumble that they’re not able to get out and they can’t really count and give a number of how many people died.”
Over 300,000 people died, but like Jean-Louis said, it is hard to get an exact number. Many of the dead were immediately transported to family or dumped out of an inhabited area to avoid contamination and disease; therefore, those people cannot be counted for.
Saint-Vil’s sisters have been keeping in touch with her throughout this tragedy. They recently told her that it has been raining in Haiti for the past few weeks, which does not help the situation. Her sisters did not have a tent that they could use as shelter; therefore, they were forced to go back inside their house even though it is not safe to re-enter the unstable house.
Saint-Vil wants to go back to Haiti to help her family, but was advised not to. “I wanted to go during spring break, which is during the end of this month, but my other sisters who are in Haiti are encouraging me not to come. They say, ‘you won’t be able to see it and leave it because there’re still dead people on the street and it’s going to be too much for you to watch. We’re already there and we can take it, but if you come in, it’s going to be too much for you.’ They are urging me to come later. Probably maybe somewhere in July I will go back to Haiti,” Saint-Vil said.
Jean-Louis plans to return to Haiti sometime in April, saying that if the international community is helping, he should be there helping as well. He does not know how the people of Haiti will rebuild or provide help for those who need serious medical attention. He also said that in the future, many will suffer from psychological problems due to what they witnessed and lived through.
“I hope that the international community will continue to provide aid for the Haitians and I know the rebuilding will take a long time because the catastrophe is very big and I don’t expect it to happen now, but I hope they will continue to provide support to help and I know the living situation will be difficult and harder in the future, but hopefully the aid we will receive will help them,” Jean-Louis said.