Since the earthquake hit Haiti last Tuesday, all communication in the country has been delayed or simply impossible. My first 20 attempts to reach my in-laws were interrupted by a recording that stated: “Due to the earthquake in the area you are calling, your call cannot be completed at this time.”
I was finally able to get through on Saturday, on the 34th attempt. Dana Jean-Baptiste, a cousin through marriage, answered the phone. I was glad to hear her voice, and glad that she and her family were safe, but what scares the 27-year-old law student now is the memory of what just happened and what’s to come.
Dana: It feels like the end of the world. The whole street is blocked with dead bodies. There is no food, no water and no electricity. People are sleeping on the street. Yesterday people were begging. Everybody is trying to help each other out. We are trying to deal with this problem, but it is very difficult.
Bridgit: What were you doing at the time the earthquake occurred?
Dana: Actually, I was in my room when it happened. My brother and I were watching TV, and watching something about Carnival because it was supposed to happen soon. Life was normal. Then the earth started shaking for a few seconds, and that’s normal. But it lasted for more than three minutes, and we started to panic because we heard the sounds of things falling down. While the earth was still shaking, my brother and I went outside and we saw that our neighbor’s house had flattened, and the street was broken up and people were crying. Our house is the only one standing on the street.
Bridgit: Are you able to go outside?
Dana: Of course, but I don’t want to. There are dead bodies on the street and it is not safe.
Bridgit: Are you afraid?
Dana: No, I am not because I know that if I cry I don’t think I will stop crying anymore. I have lost so many friends. It’s like there are no more Haitians. When you are asking for someone that you know, everybody says that he died or she died. Everybody is dead. I don’t ask for anyone anymore. If I don’t hear from someone for after a week, it is a sign that they are dead. Everyone is dead, except us.
Bridgit: Here in America, we are being told that money is going to Haiti, and that people are being helped. Is this true?
Dana: There is no communication anymore. The only way that you can speak to someone is by phone. There is no light, no electricity. Maybe money is coming, but there is no sense from the people that it is there because the banks have all fallen down. The thing to understand is that there is no more capital. There is no more Port-Au-Prince.
Bridgit: There is no more Port-Au-Prince?
Dana: Right now we are trying to make beds for everybody. There are so many people sleeping in my house every day. It is like a war.
Bridgit: What do you mean?
Dana: Like, everybody is walking around and looking for a place to sleep for the night. Our neighbors do not have a house, and so we have been helping them. Everybody is watching over somebody.
Bridgit: Have you seen the Red Cross?
Dana: Red what?
Bridgit: Have you seen the United Nations?
Dana: Somebody told me that they have all died in the crash, but I don’t know.
Bridgit: How are you going to get food?
Dana: Before the crash, everybody had some kind of food in their house, so we have collected all the food that we found to make food everyday for everybody. Everybody gets a plate. Before the crash, we could have more than that, but now everybody can just have one plate.
Bridgit: How many people are in your house right now?
Dana: Dead or alive?
Bridgit: There are dead people in your house?
Dana: Yes, they are in the front, in the yard, and on the sidewalk outside of my house.
Bridgit: Your family is OK Right?
Dana: Yes, everybody is OK because God wanted it to be that way. My mom was outside when it happened, and she is alive and that’s a good thing. One of my classmates came to see me after the crash, and she told me that the school fell down on her, and she got out through a window. The only thing that protected her was a table that was in the middle of the classroom. She went under it when the earth was shaking, and afterwards she squeezed through the window. She said she left friends and other students in the room. She couldn’t do anything for them.
Bridgit: How do you feel?
Dana: I am still in shock, and it is hard to get cured of this right now.
Bridgit: What can Americans do?
Dana: The first thing to do is pray because we are afraid of the sickness that is coming because too many people have died and we know that dead bodies can carry disease. Water is also important. Haitians need water right now. Some people need clothes. Thank God, I don’t need that, but many people do. They need food, medication and blood. I can talk for many hours about the things that we need.
Bridgit: What about money?
Dana: There are a lot of banks that fell down because the earthquake happened at around 4:00, the time that banks close. Many people were on their way home when it happened and so they were not thinking about money. There were two marketplaces that fell down, and there were over 2,000 people inside. Only God can determine the time that you have on earth because too many people died everywhere — in their house, in the hospital, in the church. I am afraid to leave my house. If I had gone outside, I would probably be dead. I heard people saying that maybe things will get worst because the earth is still shaking.
Bridgit: What do you mean?
Dana: Yes, we felt the earth shaking three times today, but they were small shakes. So we are still afraid of what may happen.