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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

From The Quake: Part Two

The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 – a mere month ago – lasted approximately a minute. But weeks of improbable rescues, tearful reunions, and astonishing displays of resilience followed. Stories flooded the world. Dana Francois has one such story. Francois, a born and raised Port-au-prince Haitian and a student at UMass Boston, shares her personal account on the earthquake and aftermath. The following segment continues from last week’s issue.  As we continued to experience the smaller aftershocks, people attempted to help one another and reach out to their loved ones. A young girl was running and crying hysterically to the point that it took her a while to recognize the brother she was desperately looking for. People were in complete shock. It was starting to get dark. My father decided that we would walk home before it became impossible to tread the streets. We abandoned the car with everything in it and started walking the 12 miles it would take us. I remember looking back and asking myself, “How did my world turn upside down so fast? I had no idea how right I was.”  The streets were filled with people trying to get home. It was almost as if it was Mardi Gras. As we walked I started to understand the impact of the quake. It was eerie to see abandoned things like an expensive Mercedes in the middle of the street. Panic had set in and people had just abandoned their vehicles. The view was the same everywhere: people were crying, the buildings were destroyed, dead bodies paved the streets of Port-au-prince amongst cars, rubble, and trash. At times, I would hear my phone vibrate and when I checked it was either a missed call or a text. My calls would not go through.  When I was finally able to speak to my friends, one in particular named Tania, made it all feel real. Although her cries brought my emotions to the surface, I had to repress all my feelings. I had a single focus and it was to make it home safe with my parents through the chaotic streets of Port-au-prince as fast as possible. I was in basic survival mode and I slowly became blind to the horrors I was facing.  As I was nearing my neighborhood, we stopped at my friend’s house to check on them. Her brother tells me that she was still teaching at the University Quisqueya and that the building had collapsed on them. I tried to call, she picked up, and she was alive. She told me that she was making the 20 miles from the campus to her home on foot with a friend and that she was fine for the most part. We hugged everyone and headed home.  As we neared the house, we saw our neighbors standing in the street and talking. As we approached them Fred, my neighbors’ son, commented on the destruction, stating simply  “My house is pretty much on top of yours”.  I got scared for my dogs and I ran home. They welcomed me at the gates. They were terrified and my cats were not too far away. The house was still standing, but my neighbors’ dinning room was in my driveway.  My mother and I decided to gather everything we could for us to withstand the chilly nights in the front yard, while my dad and his friends roamed the neighborhood to try to help those who were still alive under the rubble. Another aftershock, the house squeaked and my mother screamed for me to get out. I ran and met with parents in the driveway. We quickly ran to the gates and waited for the aftershock to cease. Another smaller one followed, more of my neighbor’s home fell in the driveway. After what seemed like an eternity, the calm returned and we resumed transporting basic necessities such as chairs, sheets, comforters, foodstuff, water, matches, flashlights and candles near the front gates as far away from the house as possible.  A few neighbors with their families joined us and we then settled a small camp in the gateway for the night. We turned on a small battery operated radio and tried to hear any piece of information that could help us deal with the earthquake and the shocks. At some point, one news station reported that it was not over yet. Right then, we knew that no sleeping was possible that night.  We needed to remain alert in case we had to run to safety. We also kept close watch for looters who were unfortunately already taking advantage of the situation.  As time passed by, we listened to the radio… We rationed our food… We ran when aftershocks became stronger… We helped injured and displaced people with food, water, clothing and whatever medical aid we had available… We argued and tried to make sense of the situation… We tried to communicate with loved ones. In short, that night, we tried to survive and helped others survive. We were confused, lost, scared, helpless, and hopeless in the face of such tragedy. We stayed up until the morning when it was bright enough to be less worried with criminals and looters. We tried to start another day. This other day proved to be much like the night, a time of survival, despair and pain. It became worst when I slowly realized that the people who were stuck in their homes were destined to die. They would die alone and scared while their families cried in agony, as they were helpless to prevent the inevitable. For the first time in my life, I remembered thinking that maybe this time, it was it. I wondered how we would make it out of this. My Haiti, my Port-au-prince, and its homes, its people were dead for good. The earthquakes destroyed so many Haitians, so many laughs, so many dreams, so many aspirations, and so many futures. That morning, for the first time ever, I could not find it in me to have hope.