The earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, seems like a sick joke. How can a country that has already been through so much (nicknamed by some as “hell on earth”), suffer from a 7.0 earthquake 10 miles from the capital city? I can’t venture a guess at the numbers dead. One media report claims “500,000 people feared dead!” Of course I clicked on it. The worst projections caught my eye, but I think this must be impossible, and maybe just a way for the newspaper to get readers’ attention. The truth is they have NO IDEA how many are dead or will die in the upcoming days. Part of me knows it doesn’t matter.
There are loved ones dying tonight. The numbers don’t matter.
My friend’s father is among the missing. Luiz Carlos da Costa, my friend Marianna’s father, was working as the second in command of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti. I can’t stop crying. Last night while checking the weather, a picture of the quake and a map greeted me. Shocked that I hadn’t heard anything, I immediately sent out an e-mail to my whole school. After hitting the send button, I became self-conscious. Who am I to share this terrible news with 300 students? Later I remembered that here on Mount Desert Island news travels slower; I will not overhear someone on the street or the subway. Four Haitian students just transferred to COA, and they haven’t made contact with their families yet. My God. My friend’s father is among the missing. My beautiful friend’s father… my mom only told me this tonight. Last night it wasn’t this real. Last night, and even more so tonight, I kept saying, “I can’t imagine what it must be like to not know if your family is alive or not.”
But I can. This brings me right back to September 11th when I couldn’t get in touch with my Dad. For hours we didn’t whether or not he was alive. And this brings me back to how they thought they were going to uncover so many people under the rubble in the following days, but they didn’t. Emergency workers found like 6.
Oh, my God.
Or Mother Earth (I obviously don’t really know who I’m talking to anymore God/Mother Earth- are they the same?), what is going on? Have we failed your people in Haiti? Are you trembling to bring our attention back to a nation in need? Well, I’m on my knees. You’ve got the world’s attention. Where are you right now? I must believe you are in the people there searching for the missing and helping the injured. I believe you are in those giving aid, and those who are grieving for the people of Haiti.
I envision community’s around the world stepping up to help Haiti now. I envision rebuilding the fallen buildings with more sustainable (environmental, physical and social) practices in mind. Maybe redesigning the city, if that’s what needs to be done, in a way that leaves Haiti better than before. But the people right now don’t want better than before, they want their families back, and Father/Mother/Creator that probably doesn’t have a gender please be with them tonight. Hold them now so they can feel you.
One of my best friend’s neighbor’s died in a car crash earlier this week. He was only twenty. Our age. We’ve been grieving their families loss and thinking of all the questions that come up with death. You know, the one’s you ignore until something like this slams you to the ground and leaves you looking up at the sky wondering why. It’s in these moments that agonizing over choosing classes, and talking about friends and boys seems so trivial and silly. But it’s those little things that make up daily life, and if we didn’t have all of that stuff, what would we have?
But then this happens. An earthquake in a place where they don’t even have the infrastructure or the hospitals to treat everyone. And, I just don’t know. Right now I never want to talk again. I just want to sit outside. If it wasn’t 11 degrees, I might, but I think I’ll wait until the morning. See. Even that’s not important compared to what’s going on in Haiti right now. Nothing is. Except everything. The wars, droughts, and kids without families. A mirror can be so hard to hold. Yes, the devastation as a result of the earthquake is important, but so are the factors that worked together to create such a vulnerable country, and so are the other places in the world, some close to home and some far away, that also need our love and attention. I know this. I do. But it’ so overwhelming—I don’t want to think about this kind of stuff. It scares me, and what can I do anyway? What is the right thing to do? What will help the most? I’m just one person and I’m young or old or not educated enough or too busy or in need myself, what should I do? Something. It’s important that we all do something. The poet Lewis Hyde once said, “We are only alive to the degree that we can let ourselves be moved.” I have had to unlearn a lot to allow myself to be moved, but now I truly believe that’s why we are here on earth. Being moved leads to action, that something. It can be personal, like a prayer or a candle. Right now, I’m remembering to live more, to appreciate my friends and family, to hold them close, and to say I love you. And I’m not really sure how this works well enough to explain it yet, but in this way, I can honor the people in Haiti and around the world who are suffering.
Subject quote: Jon Foreman, I am still running
You remember me before I learned to run. At the kissing tree before I learned my guns. We were 17, 17 years young. I am still running. I am still running.
I had no idea the pain would be this strong. I had no idea the fight would last this long. In my darkest fears the rights become the wrongs. I am still running, I am still running I am still running I am still running.
Build me a home inside your scars. Build me a home inside your song. Build me a home inside your open arms.
The only place I ever will belong.