Thursday, March 18, 2010
Like when I visited the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, nothing prepared me for our group's tour of post-earthquake Port-au-Prince. It is quite amazing how thirteen seconds can so drastically change the life of a nation.
Based on the news report I read and the photos I saw, I expected most, if not all, of the city to be flattened. That it wasn't does not mitigate the severity of the damage. What was surreal was the randomness of the devastation; completely collapsed buildings sat next to buildings that were seemingly untouched. The damage was as extensive in wealthy neighborhoods as it was in poor neighborhoods. The presidential palace is completely destroyed. Many other buildings were damaged and are now empty; their precarious position foreshadows damage yet to come.
What was most striking, however, was the vibrancy of the city. Amidst the rubble and the collapsed buildings that have yet to be removed, life proceeded, at least outwardly, as if nothing happened. Markets were set up atop piles of rubble. Thousands of the residents of the city went about their daily business and traffic jams were common. Certainly things are different in the city now: schools remain closed (at least for a few more weeks) and 90% of people live in tents, either because they are homeless or are too frightened to go back inside buildings whose structural integrity has proven weak. But despite these changes, life goes on. What other choice is there?
A Mississippi State official told me that it would take about thirty years to rebuild all that was damaged by Katrina. I do not know how long it will take Haiti to recover from the earthquake. What I do know is that the people of Haiti can rebuild as a stronger nation that can better meet the future needs of the children that we have served this week.
Posted by Fordham DRN at 9:42 PM