HAITI: No One Expected The ‘Big’ One

Marjorie Louis was sitting in her kitchen eating dinner when she felt the house shaking, but she didn’t get up.

“I didn’t think it wasn’t going to be serious… and was waiting for it to stop. But I noticed it wasn’t stopping and finally tried to get up off the table but just couldn’t get up,” said Louis, a banker who lives in Delmas. “I looked outside the window and saw a large cloud of dust and started to hear my children screaming.”

Louis is considered among the lucky, having survived an earthquake that killed tens of thousands of her fellow Haitians. A few days after the seismic tremors, stories of survival, death and destruction continue to engulf this mountainous Caribbean nation of roughly nine million people.  Her story is similar to those of millions of others after Haiti’s capital was hit with the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday. Thousands of people were killed and caught under the rubble for the same reason – they didn’t believe this was “the one” and were completely caught off guard. Haitians explained how mini-earthquakes have become the norm in recent years. But they never imagined that this catastrophe would happen in their lifetimes.

“Now I know that not leaving the house and making my family leave was a mistake. I feel so empty and helpless,” Louis said. Six others in the house stayed as well. Fortunately, they eventually made it out alive.

According to a Haitian doctor, “There is a five-second rule. If you count to five and it keeps shaking, that’s when it’s serious.”

Unfortunately, this one lasted longer than five seconds. But by the time a person finished counting, it was too late to escape.  Lyvee Memon had just arrived home from a funeral at Sacred Heart Church, a historic landmark that was later completely destroyed. She was in her living room when the tremors began. She couldn’t believe it was the real thing and planned to wait for it to stop – until the walls fell all around her. She survived and was pinned under the rubble.

“I was able to find a small, little hole that only a child could fit through, to make it out,” Memon said days later.

Herold Guillaume was driving along Nazon Road when his green Toyota sedan began bouncing. He first thought that another driver had hit his car. He looked up to see buildings and debris falling all around him. The sky was quickly blotted out by a powdery dust.

“I left the car and walked home, all the while thinking about my father who was home alone,” Guillaume said.

Emmanuel Jean was on the top floor of his three-storey home and his father was in the study on the first floor. The robust building crumbled like matchsticks and Jean said he barely escaped.

“I ran downstairs and looked for my father and got him out,” said Jean, an electrical engineer. Since then, Jean has been living in his backyard while making arrangements to join his mother and sisters, who live in Long Island.

“I’m still in shock,” he said. “I never expected this would come. Now we have to start our lives from nothing. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”


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