Though it’s been months since the January earthquake in Haiti, the after effects still linger for the survivors.
So many projects and dreams have vanished in the life of this young twenty-two year old girl. Tuesday, January 12, 2010, was a date that was tragic and memorable for every Haitian. I am Carine Exantus, student at the Faculty of Human Sciences (FASCH) at the University of Haiti.
After my secondary studies in 2007, I went to the Faculty and I chose to study communications, among all the other studies taught there. This Tuesday, January 12 has left two marks in my thoughts.
Around one o clock in the afternoon, I witnessed the murder of a professor at the University, named Jean Anil Louis Juste. It was with a lot of pain that the students of FASCH overcame this sad moment of the death of a sociology doctor. Two men with motorcycles pulled up at the intersection of the Capois and Lafleur du Chene roads. The day was already hard enough to bear when around 4:45 PM, the violent earthquake of January 12th started.
After the murder of my professor, I had gone home – disconcerted and downhearted – through the public transport. Suddenly, the van – in which I was traveling – lost its balance. Panicked, the driver slowed down quickly, throwing all the passengers into the road. I found myself on the ground, in the road, traumatized. I realized that there had been an earthquake. Lying in the middle of the road, I noticed the collapse of several buildings in the area.
Although I was in shock, I had the presence of mind to look for a shelter to protect myself from the concrete which was about to fall on me. Having seen that the Sylvio Cator Stadium was open and understanding already the frightened people (who were taking refuge there), I threw myself into a parking space in the stadium to keep myself out of danger.
Finding my family
Observing the numerous losses – in human life and in material things – I was worried more and more about my family. My legs felt dead. I couldn’t even speak yet. I was stretched out on the ground in the hope of clearing my head. But hearing the sobs of wounded people and of family members of the victims, my anguish grew.
No news of my relatives. Fear seized me. I couldn’t walk. So I spent the whole night, sitting on the ground, thinking of the fate of my family members, of my mother and my brother in particular. For me, it was the longest night, as long as every aftershock that punctuated the night terrified me.
The next day, around five in the morning, I left the stadium in the direction of my home to know what had happened to my family and our house. On the way, I came across dead bodies, wounded people. The people were panicked. All these sights did not ease my anguish. On the way I had the feeling that there would be victims at the house. Arriving at the Place du Marron Inconnu, I met a neighbor who told me that my gentle mother had looked for me desperately all last night at the Champ du Mars. All of a sudden, I became less worried, knowing that the person most dear to me in the world was alive. A little later, several meters away, I met my wonderful little mother. We hugged like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time. We cried out in joy and pleasure.
My mother told me that our house had been destroyed and that we had lost two members of our family. I couldn’t contain my tears. I no longer had the courage to go towards my house. We had to find a place where we would be, “more calm.” It was thus that we became refugees at the Place pigeon. We spent the whole day of Wednesday January 13, 2010 there. Night fell and we slept on the wet grass, spreading out just two sheets that a neighbor had offered us.
Our new life
Thus our new life started to which I must adapt to survive from day to day. It’s my duty to start over at zero. I spent the whole weekend of the earthquake sleeping – with my family – under the moonlight and on the wet grass. Thus, we started to reflect on how to make a small shelter to protect ourselves from the sun and the rain. We procured some wooden posts in order to make a shelter. Neighbors and friends gave us bedding and shared cleaning and cooking materials with us. Thus, it’s these precious objects that we struggle with in our new reality that has imposed itself on us, and we don’t know how long it will be until we can get rid of them.
This blog post was originally written in French by the writer Carine Exantus, a student living in a refugee camp in Haiti. It was translated into English by the Conversations for a Better World team.
Born in Port-au-Prince January 20, 1988, Carine Exantus is a student at the State University of Haiti, at the Faculty of Human Sciences. A young student who's been at FASCH since October, she has chosen to study social communication in her third year. In terms of early education, she has a diploma from the Ecole Mere Louise which she attended from 1994-2000. She received her Baccalaureate 1 and 2 in 2006 and 2007, respectively, from the the College Marie Anne where she did her secondary studies. She did an apprenticeship in English at the Wonderful Institute. Since the earthquakes of January 12, 2010, her house was destroyed and she lost two family members. She has taken refuge with the rest of her family, not far from Place Pigeon. Since that night, she and her family have been living in the refugee camp closest to her former residence.