Friday, January 15, 2010

A Tuesday of Trauma

To this moment, my heart is still pounding.
I can hear the low rumble.
I can feel the ground quiver.
My body sways and tells me that the earth is shaking, even when it's not.
Here is a glimpse into where it all began...

I had just finished a full-fledged day of teaching on Tuesday... The kids were officially 'back to the books' and it was quite refreshing getting back into routine. I was pleasantly surprised to find the kids waiting outside the classroom door before I even rang the bell! They would never say it out loud, but reading between the lines I dare say they may have been a little eager. :)

After school, I was ready to do some unwinding. I flopped on the couch and was skype chatting with my mom while beginning to write a blog about my first week back to Haiti after the Christmas break. I considered taking a shower, but then Sammy and Michelle came over and told me there was a worship service starting around 5pm at the church, so I planned to go along and decided to take my shower after I got back.
My mind slowly sunk into neutral mode as my music played in the background and my fingers tapped out my thoughts on the keypad. Little did I know what trauma was about to take place.

Just before 5pm, as I lounged on my couch, I felt my body sway and dizziness overtook me. First it was a slow movement, but it quickened by the millisecond. I froze for a moment and tried to re-gain stability, thinking it was just in my head. It was then that I looked up at the wall in front of me and as if it was a dream, I saw it slide back and forth like a floppy curtain. Books began to fall off my shelves and I could hear glass shattering. The sound was deafening. I sat for moments as the insides of my apartment crumbled around me and then panic flooded my mind. I didn't know what was happening, but for the sake of my survival I knew that I had to get out. As soon as I stood, I felt the ground rocking underneath me and it was all I could do to stay standing. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I fled out my front door and sprawled to the balcony railing to steady myself. To my fright, it only made things worse and so with all of the energy in me I steered myself towards the stairs with arms outstretched for balance, and stumbled down to where I saw Dennis and Jennifer huddled together on the porch steps. I clung to Jennifer as the jolting earth continued to shake and the buildings shuddered around us. In the midst of all of this I could hear Laurens running and yelling 'Everybody get out'. Hearing the intensity of his voice made me realize that whatever was happening was very, very serious. After what seemed like hours, but was only seconds, the shaking subsided and I searched Jennifer's eyes for what had just happened. She said we had experienced an earthquake. For a moment I sat stunned and unsure about what that really meant. Soon I was about to find out.

We followed instructions from Dennis to move to the roadway far from our apartments. Rachel, the Rumfords, the van der Mark family and all of the Canadian team members gathered together and sat on the dusty gravel. Like me, most of the team members had no shoes. Some who had been in the shower came out in towels. Everyone had fled for their lives. My body was shaking. Emotion flooded my mind. There were questions, sobs, and prayers. Numerous aftershocks began and we all sat tightly against one another as our bodies rocked to the movement of the earth below. The aftershocks were nothing in comparison to what we had just experienced, and yet the reminder of the extremity of the original quake was enough to have us relive it all over again.

As more people came up the hill and we rose back to our feet, we could see the mountains past the Carribean Sea and toward the city of Port-au-Prince. After experiencing the scariest thing I have ever witnessed in my life, my eyes beheld the biggest disaster I have ever seen and hopefully will ever see again. Across the distance we watched as large clouds of smoke rose up all over the land - resulting from numerous large explosions. Worst of all, there was clouded dust from one edge of the Port-au-Prince mountain straight across to the other. Without words, we all knew that Haiti's capital city was a disaster zone.

Within half an hour, an emergency medical team was arranged by Grant and Cheryl, and all of the team doctors and nurses trekked down to the clinic to give care to the countless village people who could be seen from the top of the mission hill flocking to the mission gates. This initial medical aid ran all through Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. Medical professionals worked around the clock after just returning from a full day of work to assist the Haitian people with broken limbs, bleeding wounds, burns, and internal damages.

Those of us left back at the mission set up tents on the grass far from the guesthouse porch. Despite the seemingly stable building we had all been living in, the aftershocks were still coming every half hour or so, and so it was agreed that we would stay outdoors. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped, so we pulled damp towels off of the clothesline and wrapped ourselves up to get warm. We prayed some more.

All phone lines were down immediately, so there was no way to contact any Haitians to see if they survived the earthquake. The mission staff were very concerned for our friends and yet all we could do was pray and trust that the Lord had protected them. By midnight, I had received word that all but two of my closest friends were safe and helping in the clinic at the mission. Wednesday morning, I was informed that the 2 others who hadn't yet been contacted were also safe. Praise the Lord.

In the past 12 hours, more medical groups have arrived. Aftershocks still linger. The guesthouse still stands, but the insides look like a twister went through. Shattered glass. Shifted furniture. Belongings spilling out of open drawers and cupboards. We are only beginning to understand the full effects of disaster that has happened throughout the country. I can't begin to express the turmoil in this place. Pain. Death. Suffering. Brokenness.
Haiti has been given no choice but to start over. Everything that was, has ended. Whatever life we all once had here will never be the same again. It's hard to believe that this is real. It's like a nightmare that you can't wake up from.

Today I had a bright spot. Sue-Anne (one of the team members) took over responsibility of the kids for an hour and let me go for a walk. I found the Hope House children at the bottom of the hill and two of my good friends. It was such a blessing for me to talk to everyone. To hold the little ones and to know that they are okay. Despite the joy in seeing them, my heart is also extremely burdened. Everyone I talk to has either lost their home, a family member or friend. They are staying strong, but you can see the devastation in their eyes. The quietness in their voice and the pain in their words is hard to bear. Physically they are unharmed, but deep inside they are very broken.

I understand that reading this blog may bring you feeling of helplessness being so faraway.
Let me be the first to say that you are not helpless.
You can do something invaluable for the people here. Something that the rest of us, even here, often have to do when we feel that we can do nothing more.
Pray for the people who have lost mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons.
Pray for all those who have lost their homes.
Pray for Grant and Cheryl and all those at the clinic who are doing all they can to treat the deadly injuries that the earthquake has caused.
Pray for strength, courage and endurance for all of the workers here at the mission.
Pray that the buildings and structures that are still standing will remain strong and unaffected by the aftershocks and strong winds.
Pray for the government leaders of Haiti.
Pray for the city of Port-au-Prince.
Pray for peace.
Pray for unity.
Pray for strength.
Pray for revival.
Pray for God's love to be the answer these people are searching for.
Pray that the Haitian people will experience the Lord's nearness and that He will be all He has promised to be... More than enough.


sharon said...

Praying for you constantly!

Barb said...

Praying for all of you!

Lorraine, Jeff, Shawn said...

We are praying for you and everyone in your team!
The Sellons

Lynn Wick said...

Diana - during difficult times its good to remember that Cheryl & Grant, Laurens and Sandy could not do their work WITHOUT you doing yours. No support from you, no other work would get done. Praying for MOH constantly through these days. God blessings, Lynn

FERN said...

Lydia says: Hi Diana, I learned this verse in "252" yesterday at church and I want to tell it to you.
"Don't worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him" Philippians 4:6
We prayed for you and everyone in Haiti this morning before we started school.
Jonathan says: It sounded scary to me, I am happy you are OK and everyone else too. Our family is praying!