Dozens of family members had gathered at the sprawling Orange Lakes resort for a chance to create a little Magic Kingdom of our own. Rain fell for several days, but it did not dampen our spirit. As soon as the sun came out of hiding, we rushed to the resort’s “Fun Zone.” It was there that our big, fat Haitian vacation turned small and lean in less than one second. Yet, we considered ourselves extremely lucky.
The panoramic views were breathtaking: Majestic pines thrived alongside palm trees; wild fern sprouted right on their bark. The lakes were serenity defined. There were friendly cranes, graceful swans, and the echoing cackle of enchanted children. So much happiness, as you know, carries a steep price. My husband and I paid so much for our vacation that now our daughter keeps asking: “Why did that girl in the pink and white bathing suit have to die?”
As Disney World’s nightly fireworks boomed in the background, our family would gather in a villa for late dinners and lively conversation. One cousin’s fettuccine Alfredo was divine, but the R&B (rice and beans) was a thousand times better. The villa next door was home to the New York branch of the family tree. They’ve always made the best Macaroni au gratin this side of the Caribbean Sea; they did not disappoint. Two days into the vacation, our lively conversations became mostly sighs. My husband and daughter had witnessed the unimaginable.
Our daughter had made herself at home in the two-bedroom suite with a waterpark for a backyard. She planned to bounce herself silly on the Bungee Trampoline apparatus; the afternoon was reserved for miniature golf. As waited in line to try the trampoline, my husband heard a cry for help a few feet beyond in the miniature golf area. Instinctively, he rushed toward the disembodied voice. Three people were already there: A girl had been pulled out of one of shallow ponds. A man on the other side of the fence was now shouting for my husband to help him over the fence: “I’m a Paramedic. I can help,” he cried out.
The Fun Zone was soon shut down. Most of the people in the pool area–a hundred yards or so away–had not heard about the “incident,” so there was still plenty of fun to be had.
As the sun went down, we learned from the Evening News Lady that the girl from the miniature golf pond had gone to heaven. They said her name was Ashton Jojo. She was from New York. She and her family had come to the resort to celebrate her 11th birthday.
It’s been a day since we left the resort; my heart continues to break. My husband is still stunned. Our daughter remains in shock. After all, miniature golf was next on her must-do list.
There are no words at times like these. We do not claim to know your pain, but VoicesfromHaiti sends love and Haitian-made resilience to Ashton Jojo’s family. We are beyond sorry for your loss.