It is the seventh day of Hell in Haiti.
I cannot get my head around it, what has happened to these people, less than 700 miles off the coast of Miami. My heart understands it completely. It is heavy, like a lead weight. My head tries to recall what Haiti was like before the Earthquake- colorful, expressive, happy- despite so much pain and suffering. Eighty percent of it's people were in poverty as of last Monday. Tuesday saw to it that the other twenty percent are not far behind. I remember their beautiful language of Creole being spoken on the streets of Naples, a place I called home for many years. The stories of their families being supported back in Haiti, where only one in three people are lucky enough to have a regular job. Naples was the promised land- a place where someone could send money home to care for so many. But you saw it in their eyes, they longed to go home. Despite the hardships, the sickness, the lack in so many areas. My heart today knows that Haiti has just fallen off the last rung of the ladder they were trying to climb out of poverty on. Poverty is horrible, and I do not know this personally. But what I do know is that things are much more bearable when you have the love of your family and friends. Haiti's family and friends lie dead in the streets. Those that miraculously survived the quake may not survive the infection of the wounds. Unless we can get it together as a World, this second round of death is coming full steam ahead. They know this. You can see it in their eyes. I went to bed Tuesday night looking at my children fall asleep peacefully. I thought about what our family has been through- what we are going through. None of it holds a candle to what the people of Haiti are going through. What the families of trapped tourists are going through. Their children, their loved ones are either alive in a living nightmare, dead or dying right before their eyes, or the worst of worst scenarios- trapped. Seven days. Trapped. Is anyone coming for me? Will I live? Where are my loved ones? I have had a very difficult time sleeping since Tuesday. I find myself at home in the comforts of my family... and then I realize the reality for so many... this very moment... in Haiti. It seems there are not enough prayers, not enough tears, not anything any one can do. I wish I could take a shovel to Haiti to help dig more people out of their horrible prisons. I would be yet another mouth to feed. The truth is I would be a wreck. I would be the young doctor I saw on the news today so torn apart he couldn't speak. I wouldn't survive it. What can I do? What I can maybe do is be there for others. Communication has been so hard for people waiting to hear news. Seven Days. Can you imagine? Your daughters, sons, husbands, wives- buried seven days in a Third World Country? I cannot. We sort out all the information we can in spare moments throughout the day. Monitor sites like Twitter, news reports, personal web pages, missing person lists, millions of posts. We try to give Hope. Hope that their loved one will be found. When I feel like I just cannot have any more hope, I walk away for a few hours. They cannot. They wait. For a picture, a phone call, anything that will tell them what they so badly need to hear. They are coming home to you. We try to give Hope, and yet we know. Day Seven. So many are not coming home. I pray for a miracle, another one just like the one we had Saturday night, just like the ones still happening in other areas of Haiti. People are surviving against all the odds. Haitians are singing hymns in the streets because they have not lost their faith that God will see them through. I pray that as these families that I am now enter twined with hear the news from all the Days ahead, that they do not lose their faith in God. The horrible irony about all of these tourists in Haiti is that they went there to help make a better life for all Haitians. They were there with pure hearts. They saw no race, no religion, no blame. They wanted to help. The words of some people behind a microphone, keyboard, or camera have stung this week. Haiti, this is my message to you... God did not fail you. We did. The World failed you because we did not do enough to help you up the ladder and out of poverty. The students of Lynn University recognized this. Compassion International recognized this. Countless others recognized this. That is why their people are trapped with yours. Life for most Americans go on unfazed. "What's got you down?" some people have asked. Apathy. Apathy is what's got me down. There is far too much of it. Before the Earthquake devastated Haiti Amy Wilentz said this in the September 2009 issue of Conde Nast Traveler,
"Haiti is not a place you just visit, as Columbus would surely have told you (he shipwrecked there in 1492) It's not a stream into which you just dip a toe. Here, you dive in headlong. It drives you crazy- with love, with anxiety, with desire. You fall into its arms as if it's been waiting forever to receive you. It hasn't. And as with any great unrequited love, Haiti's indifference only makes you crazier for the place."
Haiti, this is my wish for you. That you once again become colorful, expressive, and happy- despite all of your pain and suffering.
Note: Original painting by Roger Francois.