Hello family and friends of NPH,
This past Friday, March 12, 2010 marked the two month anniversary of the earthquake, tremblement de terre la, that shook Haiti and in turn devastated the lives of millions of Haitians and foreigners in one way or another. The following Monday, March 15, 2010 marked my 27th birthday. For those of us who still can’t believe that we graduated college so many years ago (five!) and are in denial that 3o isn’t far away, 27 can feel really old. This year, however, I am counting my blessings that I was alive to blow out all those candles (in one breath, mind you) on my pink-frosted ice cream cake.
On January 12, 2010 a little after four thirty, I returned home to the Father Wasson Center in Petion-Ville Haiti where I lived and jumped in the shower in my 5th floor room. This timing was important because while bathing is essential in order to wash off the sweat and grime of Haiti before bedtime, if one waits until after the sun goes down it is really hard to get in the cold water, but taking a shower too early ensures more sweat and grime to accumulate on the skin and in the hair and thus the need for additional bathing. At 4:53 pm, as I was toweling off, so fresh and so clean, our building started to tremble ever so slightly. I chuckled at first imaging a large dump truck hitting the building or something else more feasible than an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0. As a foreigner in the country, I was prepared to be wary of kidnappers, gang violence, thieves and hurricanes, but earthquakes were not on my “be ware list.”
Soon, though, the rumbling grew more intense and my brain comprehended what was happening. I immediately braced myself in the doorway of the bathroom as I had learned to do from TV shows like “Saved by the Bell;” being from Arizona, I never practiced earthquake drills. The door frame was no match for a 7.0, however, because within seconds I was thrown to the ground by walls that had come to life. When the building finally settled, my arms and head were pinned down by concrete slabs. Miraculously, or thanks to a Saturday morning episode of “Saved by the Bell,” the door to my bedroom fell on top of me like a tent thus protecting my torso and legs from immediate crush injuries and any further falling debris.
My first thought was, this is it, I am dying. It took me a moment, but I realized that I wasn’t bleeding and I was breathing. I decided I could survive for three days without water. I also knew without a doubt that my friends, family really, who worked for Fr. Rick and NPFS would be searching for those of us in the FWC as soon as possible.
So I waited.
After many hours and attempts to get someone’s attention by screaming, I ‘found’ Molly. She was trapped in her room which was once right below mine on the fourth floor. Neither of us could speak very well but we did check in on one another from time to time always ending our short conversations with “I love you.”
I was trapped for nine hours before someone finally heard my screams. Three hours later and thanks to the skillful (and precise) jackhammering of my new friend Patrick, a builder from the partially-constructed hotel next door and humanitarian, I was free and was carried down what was then equivalent to one flight of stairs to the waiting ambulance.
I was transported to a nearby doctor’s office where I waited for 24 hours to be airlifted by helicopter to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There I received emergency fasciotomies on both arms for the crush injuries I had sustained. Again, thanks to the miracle door, I had no broken bones and other than failing kidneys, was in relatively good health. I spent the next thee weeks recovering at Broward Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and returned to my family’s home in Phoenix, Arizona on February 17th.
Today I am recovering physically and am even typing this with two hands; a feat nearly impossible only a few weeks ago! Emotionally, however, I am still have a long road ahead of me dealing with the death of my brother Ryan (my best friend) and my good friend Molly (my little sister), both of whom were also in the building when it fell. There were five of us in fact, including Rachel a visitor from Portland and Dr. Castro, a hospital employee from Cuba, who were rescued with minimal injuries. The one consolation I have is that my last words to both Molly and Ryan were those of love and I know that both of them lived life to the fullest each day they were able to.
Because I was carried out of Haiti strapped to a backboard, I saw little of the devastated city with my own eyes. Thankfully, though, I have a large backlog of updates and photographs from those working there since day 1 which will be posted on this blog over the next few days.
I have shared this personal experience with you because unfortunately it is not a unique story. Innumerable Haitians lost loved ones on that day, many lost body parts as well and countless lost their homes, their businesses and their schools. I am unique in that I received care quickly enough that I still have my hands and I have a home to live in that is still standing, is full of nutritious food to eat and clean water to drink. And, as far as I know, Phoenix is far from any major fault lines.
Thank you to everyone who has supported NPFS, Haiti, my family and myself through donations, work, and prayers. I continue to pray for Molly and her family and all my friends in Haiti as we, Haiti and myself, heal and move forward.