[ haiti. all photos from the Times online Photo Gallery]
Thousands of homeless people sat on the darkened streets of Port-au-Prince in a daze or gathered in public squares, singing hymns.
The headlines did not lie. 12 January 2010 saw tragedy crush an ill-equipped yawing mousetrap of an island.
Comment from a blogger in Haiti:
I didn’t actually fall on the ground, but I stumbled around quite a bit. When the tremors ceased, a large dust cloud was rising from the building a few doors down.
A 3 story school full of teenage girls had collapsed. I stood around looking stupid for longer than I’d like to admit. I looked at the truck from Toyota, tried to call my wife (the service was out) and looked around me at people’s reactions.
Virtually everyone reacted in strange ways. Eventually, I went to the school and started working to pull trapped students from the wreckage.
The work was very hard because I was working by myself. People would come up and shout into the wreckage, “Is so-and-so inside?” at the top of their lungs repeatedly.
… I got one girl out, who was very frantic. I told her to stop shouting and pray for help.
She was about 10 feet deep under the collapsed cement roof of the building. At one point I went and borrowed a hammer from someone to break up the large piece of cement that she was trapped behind. The aftershocks scared the crap out of me, and I really didn’t like being under that cement slab. There was an obviously dead woman under the slab with us.
When the girl was out, I took my hammer and moved over to find the next trapped girl. All I could see was her face and left arm, and she frantically called out to me. I asked her to calm down because it would help me to work and asked her to pray for both of us.
… There was some sort of object behind that rubble and when I went to move it it turned out to be another girl’s bottom. The girl cried out but I could barely hear her – her whole head was underneath rubble.
At this point I began to realize that I was in over my head. All I had was a hammer, and it was quickly becoming pitch dark with twilight fading and no electricity anywhere. I tried to borrow a flashlight, but it was impossible.
I had a moment of feeling intense helplessness. After thinking and praying for a minute, I told Jacqueline that I had to leave her and find more help. I couldn’t do anything without a flashlight, and she needed to keep praying and remember that her parents were coming to look for her.
I walked 4 or 5 miles to a place where I could get a bus, then got on one eventually made it home just after 9pm. On my way home, I resolved to return to Port au Prince the next day with 2 trucks full of tools and workers to do whatever we could.
I met a guy on the bus who was holding a sandwich. He had left his house to go buy a sandwich when the earthquake hit. He returned to his home to find it flattened, then went to the school that he teaches at to find it flattened. With nothing left but a sandwich in his hand, and $7 in his sock, he set out for Cap Haitien to be with the rest of his family.
I slept a little bit last night even though I kept thinking of Jacqueline and her classmate stuck in the rubble, in the dark. This morning all of the workers enthusiastically loaded all the tools we could use into the trucks along with food and water and set off for Port au Prince.
I took them to the school and quickly made my way to the place Jacqueline and the other student were but both of them were dead.
… On the bus he met a man named Amos who had gone out to get a sandwich and minutes later found his house was flattened as was the school where he worked. He took his sandwich and got on a bus headed for Cap Haitien because everything that had made up his life in Port was gone. Amos is sleeping in our dorms and when I took him sheets and towels and asked how he was doing he simply said, with a smile, “M’ pa pi mal, gras a Dieu. ” I’m not bad, by the grace of God.
–from his wife, Leslie Rollings