Two Months Later – By Erin Kloos

A beautiful Haitian child, one of the reasons I worked in Haiti and why I will some day return to work again

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.

Molly as I remember her best, with a big smile, caring for children and wearing her signature peace sign earrings

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.

Myself with my brother.

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.

With love,

Erin

4 thoughts on “Two Months Later – By Erin Kloos

  1. Dear Erin, I am an active 78 year-old life-long graphic artist. I have known tragedy and suffering since childhood, which has filled me with compassion for the suffering of others. I have kept my sense of humor as well, and love people of every color and station. Haiti’s terrible disaster has affected me deeply, and left me with an awful feeling of helplessness. Yes, I sent a small donation, but my heart and spirit yearn to do more. Please know I think of all the killed and wounded, wrote a poem about Molly,
    try to stay informed in this chaotic situation, and send my love, my thoughts and prayers to all of you. Life is not fair; I have always known that, but the horror Life brings sometimes is totally beyond understanding… all we can do is love the person in front of us, and do what we can… Blessings to you, dear heart! Better days will surely come for you!
    Pru

  2. Dear Erin

    I write to you also on behalf of Dra.Sonja Binkhorst, you might remember that we both were in Haiti with you sharing some fantastic days in November.
    Ever since the earthquake in Haiti we have been thinking and praying for you and your parents ,we send you our condolences on the death of your brother Ryan and your good friend Molly.
    We are so happy to read that you have almost recovered to your pré earthquake condition, and we hope that you may overcome the terrible trauma such an experience leave with you.
    Through Jennifer and Robin we were informed about your condition but again we are so happy to hear from yourself.
    Dra. Sonja has been constantly informed by us and she has been a wonderful Ambassador for NPH Haiti. She wanted to go to Haiti after the earthquake and help Father Rick as a docotor but we did advice her not to go at her age in those conditions.
    We wish you a happy future, because God wanted you to live much longer so make the best of it.
    We are here in Costa Rica and do you ever feel the need to come and visit you are most welcome.
    Also to your parents we send our best wishes.
    receive a big hug
    from Dr. Sonja Binkhorst and Anna Búhler

  3. Dearest Erin,

    Although you were a little girl when I last saw you, over the past two-and-a-half months I feel as if I have come to know you anew. What I see is an amazing young woman whom I feel sure has a remarkable future ahead of her!

    You, your Mom and Dad and Katie have been in our thoughts and prayers daily since we heard the news. We were devastated when the e-mail from Bob reached us, several days after the earthquake, to learn of your injuries and Ryan’s passing. There are no words to adequately express our sympathies for your family’s loss and our concern for each and every one of your family.

    Recently, I saw a news article online in which you stated you were still having a hard time believing all of this is not your fault. But believe it you must! Unfortunately, Erin, there is a randomness of the universe. Even on a ‘good’ day, none of us knows what will happen from one minute to the next. Part of growing up and growing older is the inevitable realization that life, with all of its random twists and turns, is a gift to live to the fullest because it may be gone in an instant of an accident, which is exactly what this was. You, Ryan and Molly simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I, too, have had moments in my life when I’ve taken what I’ve later thought to not be the best road, as Robert Frost wrote in his poem The Road Not Taken…”two roads diverged in yellow wood…” Yet, no matter what the circumstance, we cannot go through life doing the ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda game’; we’d make ourselves nuts trying! You were in Haiti doing God’s work, something you loved and Ryan supported you in it. God and many others are proud of you and loves you very much! I only marvel that at your ages you chose to go to help these children and Ryan wanted to see why this place was so important to you. That right there about as remarkable as it can get for your years!

    I have been on this planet now nearly 51 years, having grown up as one of those disabled kids. Bearing that in mind, you will understand when I say I know life’s not fair or easy and it is what we make it. Try as we might to plan and control, there is indeed a randomness about it and we learn to work our way through, somedays doing a much better job than on others!

    From my perspective, you are ‘only’ 27! I trust you’ll forgive me when I tell you I laughed when I read you felt old at 27, I well remember my 27th year…then 30…then 35 and so on. Each passing year felt so much older! Now I look back realizing how much time has past and that’s what truly makes me feel old! But thanks to the advent of digital technology, we now feel we are moving through time so much faster than before. With that passage of time, our lives and everything about them do evolve. In time, your pain – physical, mental and emotional – for the loss of your dear brother and friend and for adjusting to what you have experienced will ease. You will never forget but it will become easier and many happier times and memories will replace those now so very painful for you. I promise.

    What lies ahead for you is an exciting future, Erin! I am confident you will go through the next door and the next in your life with the same amazing grace you have displayed already. You will be an awesome doctor and will make a fine contribution to humanity through your work and in Ryan’s memory. I am so very proud of you and would feel honored if along the way you’d like to communicate back to me from time to time. I’ll keep you in my prayers always.

    Much love,
    Donna

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