In less than one minute, everything changed. On my way home from work the evening of Jan. 12, I took a glance at status updates on one of the many social websites and read that an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude had just hit my beloved Haiti. I’d only left it two days before.
I told myself that it couldn’t be true. I turned the radio on in my car to listen to the news, and again I couldn’t believe what I heard. The city of my birth had just been hit with a forceful earthquake. Immediately, my mind and my body could not coordinate. I felt lost, delusional, sickened. I wanted to ask why us, what caused it, and now how will we ever be able to move on from this.
The following days were not much better. Beside the fact that I could not speak to any of my friends or family members, I couldn’t bear watching the images coming from the various news outlets. As the days passed, and still no word from anyone I know in Haiti, I started to get fidgety.
Then, came the news that one of my beloved cousins and adoptive sisters had died.
From this point on, it was not just an earthquake in Haiti. To me, it became an all-out assault on our existence as a people. This moment would test the Haitian character like nothing before.
As my family and I dealt with the personal loss, we found our strength in the others who gave support and made their shoulders available for us to cry on. This was not a moment for personal grief, but rather for national mourning. It is in that unity that we were able to accept our loss, and were able to try to answer the question of the moment: what’s next?
As founder of Haiti 2015, many who know about us are expecting an answer from the group. Our supporters in Haiti, who were with us two days before the quake, call us every day asking for help. At times, we feel powerless because we are so far away. Yet, we remain resolute in our determination for a new Haiti.
The next step must start with love. Just as people were not afraid to pull out strangers from rubble after the quake, we must move with that same spirit in rebuilding our country. We must be willing to give our best and our all for this country, if we are to rise up from the rubble.
Some might wonder what love has to do with building a nation. First, let me tell you, it has been missing in our midst for too long. The animosity in our hearts for one another over petty matters must come to an end. This moment has taught us that the power of love and service to mankind can work magic. It is through those qualities that we were able to find people alive, many days after the quake. More than ever we need love to reign supreme in the heart of us all.
I always knew that I loved my country. But this colossal tragedy has made me realize that I am in love with my country and my compatriots. My heart aches when watching small children wandering around looking for relatives. Tears cannot stop running down my face by reliving the atrocities that nature has inflicted on my people. I find myself incapable of continuing to write, but the courage of those who live through that moment has re-energized my thought processor. We are in this together. Guided by love for one another, we will rise again.
Rebuilding from the Ashes
Our country cannot be left at the mercy of charity, because it was not founded by charitable deeds. It was blood, courage, sacrifices, resiliency, and above all a love for freedom that gave us Haiti. In this time of great despair, we must remain true to the creeds of our nation’s founders: “liberty at all cost” and “rebuild from the ashes.” It is one thing to accept help from others, and it is completely a different story to abandon our home when it needs us most. We are Haitians because we have Haiti.
The immediate aftermath would lead us to question our existence, our ability to be self-governed, our will to be free at home, and our spirit to unite. We will be tested in our pursuit to remain one nation, one people, with one common purpose. Many of us would think it is better to deliver our country to foreigners, since we could not get it right during all those years before the quake. Others would remain silent and pretend as if things will change on their own. Today, after the infamy, we need to gather ourselves and walk towards that bright horizon.
Together, we will find the solutions we are seeking. In unity, we will become more tolerant of each other. And with the love in heart for our country and for each other, we will realize that the future is still in our hands. We must seize this moment to make the memories of those who are no longer with us shine as bright as an everlasting light.
We will rebuild on the ground where the blood of our compatriots were flowing just days ago. We will walk on the soil that so many people are buried under. It is to them that we owe a just and prosperous Haiti. It is for them that we must continue to walk with our head up and for those left behind that we must take care as we would our own. It is our moment to show the world that we are indeed a loving people.