- Posted April 8, 2010 by
Port au Prince, Haiti
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Haiti earthquake aftermath
Day Two: Port au Prince
It’s impossible to walk any block in the capital city and not see the massive destruction. Even the dead were not spared… at a large cemetery the fallen mausoleums expose the fragile boxes inside. On Day Two we continued with our attempts to connect with people off the beaten path. The eyes of some of the children were hollow, as if their innocence had been shaken from them along with the rest of their world. Others exuded joy and seemed blissfully oblivious to the world around them. An old lady we met was walking down a street with her friend, similarly garbed in colorful layers. They alternated between hugging us and motioning us to leave them alone. It was not far from here where the father of several children, standing along the border of a make-shift tent city, said to us, “How can you prove to us right now that you are our friend? Please don’t just come and visit and then leave us alone again without doing something to help.” Also on Day Two we visited the temporary hospital set up by Medishares on the grounds of the Port au Prince airport. Two hundred dedicated volunteers work around the clock tending to victims young and old. We were determined to find the site of the mass grave we knew existed outside of the city…we felt compelled to go there to remember those nameless people who were quickly buried en masse. On the journey there from Port au Prince we encountered another enclave of tents and tarps. It’s almost incomprehensible, but hundreds of thousands of people are living like this. There are no services: no water, no food, no sanitation…they only have each other. At the site of the mass grave, marked on the highway by a simple sign, a white metal cross interlaced with black cloth sits atop the hill overlooking the burial site. A single dried flower adds a drop of color to the lifeless scene. The stillness of the site is haunting and the midday sun, baking the ground, distorted the air with a suggestive haze and haphazard motion. Some of the dirt appeared freshly moved; deep holes await those still to arrive. This is the final resting place for thousands of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters—no one knows who they are, how many there are, where they once lived. Herman, our interpreter, was also speechless as he gazed down at the dry dirt, perhaps wondering if anyone he knew may have found their way here. Back in the city we found our way to a street lined with vendors struggling to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. We encountered one man whose face reminded us that the struggle of the Haitian people did not begin on January 12.