An Earthquake in Haiti

As you know, we are currently in the midst of blogging about each of our children individually and focusing on what they hope to do with their future.  Our next blog in that series will be about Maekin, and when we met with him to discuss his future I must say it was by far the most entertaining meeting we had.  

Today, however, I wanted to write a little a little bit about what it was like to feel the earth shake for the first time in my life.  This past Saturday off the coast of Port-de-Paix, a city in northwestern most Haiti, there was a magnitude 5.9 earthquake.  This earthquake, while much smaller and less intense than the 2010 event, still caused some major damage to cities up north and has injured over 150 and killed at least 12 people to date.  Please be in prayer for the people who are struggling with this disaster, for the organizations who wish to provide aid, and for the government of Haiti as it tries to take care of its citizens.

On Saturday evening at around 8:00, Sophie and Elijah were in bed asleep and all of the ATN kids at our house watching Superman II when our dining room table started shaking.  My initial reaction was to get annoyed at one of the kids for coming in and kicking the table, but nobody was around and the water in the water cooler was shaking really badly as well.  At that point, I put my feet down on the ground to stand up and I noticed that the ground was shaking.  When I finally realized what it was, it was over, and when I walked towards our bedroom to find Jess, I noticed that every single one of our kids and our house moms were at the door ready to run out.

The kids, especially Tony and Fedeline, were visibly shaken.  It took them a couple of minutes and then there was this sort of nervous laughter and everyone went back in to finish the movie.  Jess and I began looking up online exactly what had happened and we found out that it was a pretty dangerous earthquake in northern Haiti and it was followed up by a 5.2 magnitude earthquake the following day that most everyone in our area (excluding us) felt.  I want to be clear that there is absolutely no physical damage anywhere close to our home and orphanage, it was just a minor tremor here and we are all ok.

At the same time, there has clearly been an opening of some psychological wounds from the 2010 earthquake amongst the people here.  You may not know this, but we live within 5 miles of the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, and a large majority of our friends and employees, and every single one of our children that can remember 2010 were affected.  Since the earthquake on Saturday, many people will not sleep inside their homes out of fear that another earthquake will hit and they will be trapped under a collapsing structure.  Since Saturday, our kids have talked about the earthquake and we have learned where many of them were when it happened and how they were affected.  There is clearly an uneasiness and a fear that accompanied this reminder of the traumatic 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians.

From a personal standpoint, I can completely understand the fear involved with an earthquake.  I have never really been in one, but just that short, small tremor this past Saturday got Jess and I thinking about what we would do if another catastrophic earthquake hit here.  The problem is, what can you do?  As we sit and watch a new, powerful hurricane make its way up the Gulf of Mexico toward the states, we can sit and watch it for days and get prepared (apparently by purchasing huge quantities of milk and bread) for what is about to happen.  When there is a tornado, there are signs and warnings that help us to know when to take cover.  When there is an earthquake, there is no sign. There is no 5 day window to make preparations.  When there is an earthquake, there is just an earthquake and you react in that moment and hope that you have time to move to safety.

When I write that, I do not mean that we are just sitting around talking about earthquakes and worrying about the next time one hits.  What I do mean is that the fear of an earthquake became real to us in that moment.  Our 2 children were asleep in their bedrooms down the hall from us, and it struck us that we would just have to run and get them and get out of the house as quickly as possible.  I cannot begin to imagine the emotions that it must have unearthed for the millions of Haitians who actually lived through the last one.  The thought of getting to their loved ones, of getting out of whatever structure they were under, of finding food and water when everything was destroyed, of not knowing when the next aftershock would come, of not having insurance to cover the immense damages, of not having a governmental infrastructure that was prepared to step in and help, and most of all of just not knowing when everything would happen again just like it did in 2010.  

Please continue praying for those in northern Haiti who are putting their lives back together.  At the same time, please pray for our friends, our employees, and our kids here in Gressier.  This latest earthquake brought back memories of one of the most devastating natural disasters ever, and this psychological pain will be difficult to deal with.  We know of at least one of our employees who has not slept inside her house since Saturday (and it has rained most every night) because she is scared that more earthquakes are coming…Can you blame her?

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