February 17, 2010

Port-Au-Prince and Me

Print More

I first reacted to the news of the earthquake with disbelief, since it was hard to accept that once again the people of Haiti had to face a new disaster. For those of us who have ties to the country and continuously follow the events that have taken place there, this earthquake seems like the culmination of a number of storms and hurricanes — particularly those which destroyed several regions of the country in 2004 and 2008 — along a long history of violence and political instability that have severely affected the country until very recently. After digging whole cities and communities out of the muck, this new year seemed promising, and I had allowed myself to expect that some veritable progress for Haiti would be attainable in a near future.

Some of the pictures and footage aired will never be erased from my memory. The iconic picture of the National Palace in ruins, which I was once invited to visit — it was considered to be a unique architectural masterpiece in the Caribbean — will be one of those pictures that I will never forget. I still can relive the atmosphere in the family room of my house when we first observed that image. At that moment, we truly understood the severity of this disaster and that it would take way too long for our country to recover from it.

Immediately after the earthquake occurred, our greatest concern was to communicate with loved ones in Haiti, and having no communication with them for a few days rendered those first days very difficult. Once communication became possible, we started constructing an abstract listing of our losses which included friends, acquaintances, and some people fairly close to our family. Fortunately, no members of my own family were hurt. In spite of the sorrow that the loss of friends brought to my nuclear family, the destruction of certain structures and buildings brought us similarly great distress. I knew Port-au-Prince — yes, in the past — because Port-au-Prince will never be the same. My school, my neighborhood, the churches we used to attend, my uncle’s house, even the National Palace which I had the opportunity to drive by several times—all these places have been partially or completely destroyed.

A little more than a month after the earthquake, we are still concerned about the lives and health of those who survived this disaster and about the steps that will be taken in the following months to clean and reconstruct the cities. As a Haitian, I hope that I can trust the international community — not only the governments of other countries, but also their people. I hope that they will continue to work so that Haiti will rise out of the rubble and so that my people are not left to fend for themselves— for as long as it takes.

Paula Latortue is a Daze contributor. She was born in Puerto Rico to a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father and lived in Haiti from age eight to age twelve. She can be reached at pml26@cornell.edu.

Original Author: Paula Latortue