Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jon's story

Many of the Haitian translators working with our teams are people who were living in Port au Prince the day of the earthquake. Sometimes as we go through our work day it is easy to forget that the people we are working so closely with are themselves victims. Jon is a new Haitian friend who's story fascinates me because it highlights a particular problem that many people faced in the first minutes after the earthquake.

On the evening of the earthquake Jon was laying in bed at his house. He woke up a little before five and left to get some medicine from the pharmacy for his sick son. While he was walking through his neighbourhood the earthquake struck. He explains how difficult it was to walk because the earthquake was so strong. By the time that it was over there was so much dust in the air that he was unable to see. He was disoriented from being shaken about, blinded by all the dust, and unable to make progress walking because he kept stumbling over all the debris in the street. People were running into one another and asking for directions or asking about people that they had just been separated from. As he explains it no one could really give anyone directions because you could no longer tell where you were. When the dust started to settle Jon noticed that building were down all around him. It became even more difficult to find his way home as there were no longer landmarks to guide him. Rubble from fallen building lay in the streets and yards and pavement where indistinguishable from one another. Imagine how desperate it must feel to be unable to find your way home to check on your family in your own neighbourhood that should be so familiar to you but suddenly everything is foreign. Eventually Jon did make it home and was grateful to find that his family was safe even though there house had been destroyed.

From the news coverage most of us can easily imagine the the scene minutes after the earthquake with crushed buildings, dead bodies and wounded people bleeding as they wonder around for help. But I never thought about how frustrating it must have been for people like Jon. He knew he was only a few minutes away from his family but couldn't find them and being afraid that they may need your help or that they might be dead and feeling completely helpless to do anything about it.

Jon has been a real asset to the team and is a great translator. He, like very few people, really appreciate the gift of life and family. His life has been forever changed as a result of the earthquake and even though he has lost everything he would tell you that poverty and riches go far beyond the material world.


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