Port-au-Prince, Haiti. October 2019. Photo Credit: Garry Pierre-Pierre

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

By Garry Pierre-Pierre

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti –  Jan. 12, 2010 was a cold Tuesday. I was at home shivering when I heard the news the earthquake had hit Haiti. I knew this would be a big story. I put together a team and headed toward the country.

Ten years later, I sought to retrace my steps as again, Haiti was experiencing another earthquake, this time man-made and self-inflicted. I flew to Santo Domingo as I did in 2010 and planned to take a bus to the capital city. But it didn’t work out as expected. There were no buses because the border had been closed for months after buses were regularly attacked and looted as they tried to make their way across the border. Widespread protests had essentially paralyzed the country. Port-au-Prince was cut off from the rest of the country with all roads too dangerous and impassable. 

So I stayed in Santo Domingo for a few more days until there was a flight to Haiti. Flights as well had been cancelled. The roads to and from the airport were also dangerous to traverse. The city had been segmented as well with local gangs controlling who could enter their zones. 

It was under these conditions that I braced myself as I head to Haiti. In nearly 30 years of covering the country, I was never afraid. This time, unfortunately, I was. Like 10 years ago, I was apprehensive as to the depth of the death and destruction, this time I was unsure what I would find when I hit the ground. 

The Haitian Times’ coverage of the earthquake had been personal. Family and friends were displaced and there were few provisions, particularly in the first few days after the earthquake. So in between interviews, I also drove to the Dominican border to buy food for our staff’s families, all of whom were sleeping in the courtyard, spooked by the constant aftershocks, some of whom measuring a Category 5. 

This time again was eerily similar. I stocked up on pasta, canned tuna, salmon and sardines, as well as, chips and crackers in the Dominican Republic because supermarkets were closed and street vendors couldn’t bring their goods for sale. Again, it was too dangerous. It had been that way for months by the time I landed in Haiti last November for our coverage of the 10th year anniversary. Continue reading

Garry Pierre-Pierre

Garry Pierre-Pierre is a Pulitzer-prize winning, multimedia and entrepreneurial journalist. In 1999, he left the New York Times to launch the Haitian Times, a New York-based English-language publication serving the Haitian Diaspora. He is also the co-founder of the City University Graduate School of Journalism‘s Center for Community and Ethnic Media and a senior producer at CUNY TV.

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