Today we remember the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who lost their lives and the millions gravely affected by the devastating earthquake that struck their country eleven years ago,
The 2010 earthquake hit Haiti on January 12
300,000: Number of injured
1.5 million: People initially displaced
32,788: Displaced people who remained as of January 2020
3,978: Number of schools damaged or destroyed by the earthquake
The earthquake itself lasted less than 30 seconds. The immediate aftermath was horrifying. But an outpouring of solidarity within the country, and between Haiti and the rest of the world, gave many Haitians hope. The earthquake placed Haiti on the world stage with an immediate call to action and the world responded. We all learned how a 7.0 earthquake could bring an entire city to rubble. The problems lay much deeper than disaster relief. This couldn’t be a cleaned up like an oil spill. Prior to the earthquake I don’t know that I had thought about Haiti outside of geography.
I’m part of that secondary wave of people and organizations who wanted to help solve the underlying issues of poverty, underdevelopment, civic rights, myths and narratives.
The earthquake left many thousands homeless and turned large parts of Port-au-Prince into refugee camps.
Whiplashed between disasters both natural and political over the past decade, many Haitians have not had a chance to rebuild mentally or emotionally. They go forward as life pulls us to do but the sounds, the smells and the images of that catastrophic day still haunt the same streets they frequent the most. It’s a hurt that most days are pushed down, swept aside but today they remember. They recall where they were the moment the earthquake hit, the moment they learned news of their loved ones, the days and months to follow sleeping in the cold of the open air. Vulnerable and unprotected. Coming face to face with the limitations to protect one’s family and in too many cases to protect one’s own body. They remember the starting over. The intimidation of beginning again.
These 11 years later the capital may still lay in ruins and urban infrastructure still unable to protect the people many of whom moved to the outskirts of PAP for fear of residual earthquakes. But what cannot be broken is the spirit of the Haitian to carry on, to endure, to survive with radiant solidarity. Hope despite the culture of conflict shaped by a long history of foreign interventions and political mismanagement, hope has not diminished. This is a rising people. A kind people. To be Haitian means to be free by way of great loss and struggle. Today lest we forget, we remember and mourn the loss and struggle on that devastating January 12, 2010.