Today is the anniversary of the ‘quake that shook Haiti. Many of you might not know that I was in Haiti back then and left the country the evening before it hit. This is a piece I wrote in 2012 (slightly edited) that gives you an idea of how the events unfolded and affected me. I have friends in Haiti today (on a mission trip) and am thinking about them. And I miss my buddy, Jameley. A lot.
It’s the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti.
Today I’m remembering that day in 2010. I’m remembering how it affected me personally and how it devastated a group of people I love.
On January 11th, my team flew out of Port au Prince after spending a week in Jacmel. We had been building a brick and mortar wall and relationships with the kids at an orphanage. On our return to the states, we spent the night in Fort Lauderdale and then made our way to Chicago by the early afternoon of the 12th. I reunited with my wife, which was amazing (except for when I told her I lost my wedding ring in the Caribbean Sea). We checked-in to a fancy hotel overlooking Navy Pier and were getting ready to go out when I flipped on the TV. BREAKING NEWS! It was on all the news channels. An earthquake in Haiti. It took me a good five minutes to believe it was actually happening. I thought it was old footage or something. I told Julie to come into the room and she was shocked, just like the rest of the world. ”I was there yesterday,” I said.
I forced us to go out for dinner. I hadn’t seen her in ten days and this was our opportunity to be in Chicago by ourselves, without the kids. My mind was racing. My good friend Chris was still in Haiti. I made several calls to try and see if he was safe and finally had to do my best to let it go. During dinner I got word that he was alive. He said he would go check on the kids the next day.
I remember getting back to the hotel and calling my dad. I cried a lot. I could hear the relief in his voice and that was all I needed.
The next morning we headed home and went straight to my friend Steve’s house where the rest of the team was meeting. There was a news crew there interviewing them. I remember walking in and hugging them and breaking down. I think we all felt the same way; we wanted to be there. We wanted to help. Our hearts were still in Haiti. For me, though, I was also glad to be home safely with my family. I felt two guilts. One for not being in Haiti to help and one for being glad I was home safely.
We spent the next several weeks mourning with our Haitian friends, being grateful for all the attention and support they were getting, and doing our best to connect people with a real way to help by supporting the orphanage we’re associated with. I’ll never forget that time in my life.
I was able to get back to Jacmel in April of 2011 and plan to go again. In 2012, my friend Chris (the one who actually lived through the earthquake) was in Haiti again. He texted me and said, “Jameley says hello and thank you and he misses you.” It choked me up at work. Jameley is the little boy I connected with the two times I was there (read about him here, please) and I sent a picture of our family and some small gifts with Chris to give to him. I miss him a lot. But, I know I will see him again.
Please take a moment today and remember how you felt those years ago when you heard the news. Recapture that feeling. The need there is still great. Keep them in your thoughts, your prayers, your hearts.