How I Got To Haiti Three Years Ago
Authors Note: Thirty six months ago, I was one of the many emergency responders that went to Haiti to assist my fellow brethren in one of the worst disaster that the nation had seen. I initially wrote this piece because I realized that I need to process how I was feeling about death, violence and the sadness that was present during my first few months in post-earthquake Haiti. Thirty six months later, I realized how much I held on to and how much I still need to release. I wanted to share this piece with you today, not to blame anyone but to share my experience in Haiti during the first month after the earthquake.
Sometimes, travel is just not that exotic. Sometimes, we have to take the longest route to a country not because it is off the beaten path, rather, it is the only entrance into a country. There was no exhilaration of a new passport stamp or anxiety of how many pages I had left in my passport. For this trip, a stamp was not required, not as a humanitarian worker and not in a country that no longer had a functioning airport. I hit the ground ready to work amid the smell of death, the faces of desperation, and all that was lost in Haiti. I never realized that my fathers drug of choice, Haiti, was also mine. My father could not be away from Haiti, and neither could I. My father, loves to travel, but going to Haiti trumps the exotic and new, and he was right, even now. I felt as though it was my duty to go back to Haiti, not because my father was in Haiti and could not be found or contacted, not because my friends had died, and not because the Haiti I knew and had fallen in love was lost. I went to Haiti, because I needed to take action, I wanted to go and be in the field.
As one of the thousand emergency hygiene kits, which consisted of non food items (NFI) such as toothbrushes, underwear and soap broke, I saw a small pink and yellow bra. We would pick up the items and give them to someone. This was rather trivial on my list, considering that an Non Governmental Organization (NGO) driver was just held at gunpoint for water the day before. Being, the sole NGO representative and a women in this area, I was at risk, especially since I was the perceived gatekeeper of water, food, and shelter. As I picked up the pink and yellow bra on the floor, I realized that no one in this village asked for my help. No one in this village wanted to wait in line in the hot sun for seven hours to get food, water, shelter and underwear. No one asked for a Haitian American to return to help put up an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp. The true frustration that day, was that no one, asked for this earthquake. The only thing that I was certain of was the heat, I felt as though I was starting to melt, with no water in sight.
I do not remember how I made it through that day. When I made it to my room, I crashed on the floor. I realized in a few days, I would no longer be the “go to” person. My days of being “Madame Tent,” were winding down in this area and as I took off my sweat drenched and extremely foul-smelling bra, I cried. It was the first time that I had cried since getting the news of the earthquake in Haiti. I cried for Haiti. I cried tears of sadness for my friends that did not make it out in time or that could not be “found”. I cried for not being able to do more. I cried tears of joy for my friends and father that were evacuated to the United States. I cried, because I carried an extremely large amount of guilt for not being in Haiti during the earthquake. I cried because I still had to prepare my emergency bag, because aftershocks were not aware of time.