Tag Archives: 1/12/10 haiti earthquake

Haiti Remembrance Day: 8 Years Later

We will never forget January 12, 2010.

We recall precisely where we were, when the news reached our ears.

Port-au-Prince was unrecognizable. The unimaginable had happened.

Not long afterward, we calculated the number of lives lost: 200,000 and more.

I worry about families who have yet to located loved ones. They remain “Unaccounted for.”

There are no words to describe the fear and the fearlessness it took to wake up each day and keep moving forward.

We cannot imagine the number  of children who were “adopted” by foreigners.

The pain is still fresh–for the adults and their children.

How does one forget this catastrophe?

Though it’s been 8 years, it’s as if time had stood still.

All we can now is remember the injured people strewn in driveways and parking lots, begging to be seen by kind-hearted surgeons.

We survived. Barely . But we made it through. There are places where rubble is still on the ground, but we keep moving forward. Thank you .

Mere days before the remembrance of this deadly event, the current president of America smeared o ur country and the memory of our lost ones. He called describe our nation as a $#it-hole.  No, Mr. President. Haiti and Haitians are not a receptacle for your waste.

Come to think of it, hence the cholera epidemic.  They dumped their waste in our  rivers, causing thousands to die. Perhaps they believed Haiti was/is a latrine too.  Perhaps the Haitian government ought to show the world that we are not a shithole.   But I have one question:

Why do all those American citizens flock to Haiti, and never return to the states? Our $#it hole must be irresistible. Take a look like Baltimore. Look at the school system. Look at the miles upon miles of condemned houses. Hopefully the people from Norway and other countries on your ‘invitation’ list will be willing to clean up the mess. There are hundreds of homeless people under Route 83. Please, take care of them. They make the area look like very bad. I would not want to live there at all.

You managed to hijack the remembrance of a solemn time in Haiti, but we’ll make it thro ugh. We always do. That’s why I say, :We are beautiful. And we are here.”




“Tell Them I’m Still Here” ~ Remembering 1/12/2010

Tell Them I'm Still Here “Tell them I’m still here. Tell my sisters, my cousins, their children–I’ve never met any of their children. But tell them anyway.  Tell them Maxo said he is still alive. Di yo m’fout la toujou.” Jean-Max Simeon

“I was taking my daughter to school.  She was getting out of the car, when the ground started to shake. I yelled at her to get back in. We drove fast. You see me here.  Ask me why I’m alive. I can’t tell you what I don’t know.” Frank

SAM_0287“You realize your big house is useless. The furniture is nothing. You are afraid of your big house. The bigger it is, the faster it  kills you.” – Lucienne

“The walls stretched. They shook you. One minute I was here. Next minute I was upside down. The house was elastic. It was a miracle that we survived. ” – Nadia

large family tent“When you’re inside the tent, you feel like somebody set your skin on fire. You don’t move. You wait. You know if you live to see the next day, maybe you’ll see the one after it.” -Barbara

“After 49 years of back-breaking work in the United States, I was supposed to spend my remaining years in my own country.  Now they tell me my house collapsed.  I don’t want to hear that my life in America was for nothing.” -Myrta SAM_0288

“I didn’t know what was happening. How was I supposed to know? I held my baby, and ran. I didn’t know where we would stop. I just ran.” Nicole

“There are so many ways it is described, this ‘Thing’ that manifested itself that January afternoon, leaving Haitians in such fear that even those whose houses are undamaged will not sleep inside. ” -Actress and poet Michele Voltaire Marcelin — from “The Thing”

“Caribbean Market fell. People were screaming.  The market kept falling. The roof. The walls. The air turned to dust.” -Stanley, University student

“People in America knew more than we did. We didn’t have televisions to watch the news. We didn’t have a radio. People guessed. People repeated what they’d heard. We believed everything. We believed nothing.” – Hans

“I was sitting in my taptap, when it hit. Dozens of people tried to fit in the cab. They piled on the hood. They jumped on the roof. They wanted me to drive them away from the problem. But the problem was everywhere.” –Rodly, taptap driver

“Children asked what it was. We couldn’t tell them what it was. The children called it by the sound it made: Goudougoudou (goodoogoodoo.)  ‘Goudougoudou eats people,’ the children said. Every time the ground shook, the children cried out, ‘Goudougoudou is going to eat us too.’ ” Jenny

Mango - Papa Yiyi - February 2010

VoicesfromHaiti photo – February, 2010

“People came from everywhere. You didn’t know who they were. They had lost families and homes. They were hungry.  They asked if they could eat the green mangoes on our tree. We told them they could. We sat together and ate. Papa Yiyi planted the mango tree seven years ago. He died shortly afterwards. He would be pleased to know how many people the tree feeds now.”

Still shot of Anaika Saint Louis from CNN video.

Still shot of Anaika Saint Louis from CNN video.

“Anaika Saint Louis was just 11 years old. She wanted to live. But the world flew too far away for her arms to reach. She ran in her sleep.  Four years ago today, Anaika Saint Louis started her journey to Paradise. Every tear her innocent eyes shed was a waterfall to me. Even though Anaika and I never met, I feel as if I knew her. I remember her voice. I can still her screaming. Rest in Paradise, little angel.” – Rachelle Coriolan

The Best and the Worst ~ Guy S. Antoine

GUy antoinneThe purpose of this post was to share one little note which Guy S. Antoine wrote precisely 10 days before the devastating earthquake struck Haiti 4 years ago. In his note to friends, Guy tells about the tragic loss of his niece-in-law, and how that changed his life. The irony in Guy’s note is that mere days after he wrote it, all of Haiti would suffer loss so profound we’re still looking for the words to express it. While thousands remain in makeshift housing today, many of us continue to try to identify those lessons which some say we should have learned by now.

The more I thought about Guy’s note from 2009, the more I thought about the delight he brought so many through his website, Windows on Haiti. The post I had meant to write about the irony of loss became one of hope and gratitude for a one-man marching band who drummed alone in the desert long before anyone cared to listen. Chapo ba, Guy S. Antoine! Thank you for opening Windows on Haiti. I know many thousands would agree that it helped them to breathe just a little better.

Nou Bèl. E Nou La!

Nou Bèl. E Nou La!

The more I think about Windows on Haiti, the more  realize why VoicesfromHaiti came into existence. Guy and I sing the same song; we beat the same drum. So. . .a luta continua, vitória é certa.

Take a moment now to read Guy’s own words from 1998.    

Windows on Haiti’s Statement of Purpose

Haitians have survived in a geopolitical environment that has been undeniably hostile to them from the day they voiced their desire to live free in a sovereign nation and ever since. Notwithstanding, they have created a startlingly different way of life, a unique signature of Religion, Arts, Language, and above all, a sense of identity deeply rooted in spirituality and collective remembrances.

We aim to present you some interesting windows on Haiti’s culture. True exploration begins when you venture beyond them and engage in respectful contact and discovery.

chaos on canvasThis web site has emerged as a labor of love for my native country. As such, I dedicate it to her friends and children, the painters and the poets, the researchers and the students, the drummers and the dancers, the musicians and the storytellers; to all participants in and contributors to the uplifting aspects of her culture; to the unsung heroes; to the makandals, the boukmans, the peraltes; to the marie-jeannes and the madan-saras; to the gwo-zoteys and the restaveks, the illiterate, and the famished.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank my family for allowing me to spend an inestimable amount of time and resources on this endeavour.

VoicesfromHaiti HummingbirdTo state my views in the simplest way, I am against social barriers, let it be racism, sexism, class prejudice, or misplaced nationalism. In Haiti, our vaunted nationalism translates into pride in our History and total neglect of the Present. We were the first enslaved people to fight successfully for freedom and national independence. Yet today, we receive our dictates from abroad and we are at the international lending institutions’ mercy. Worse yet, many of us live in conditions of modern slavery, strangely reminiscent of old: in the “bateyes” of the Dominican Republic, and in the homes of our cities, which are populated with “restaveks.” Just where is Toussaint Louverture for them today?

At the start of the most recent, disastrously implemented US/UN embargo against Haiti, a middle-class youth in Haiti was asked if he was worried. He responded casually: “Sak pou manje ap toujou manje!” (Those who should eat will eat no matter what!) In this one statement, he betrayed the tragedy of the Haitian people. Haiti will never again be a great country, until we treat all her people as our brothers and sisters, deserving the same opportunities that many of us take for granted due to fortunate but accidental circumstances.

In colonial times, Haiti was a country with entrenched social divisions: classes of grands blancs, petits blancs, affranchis, and slaves. 1804 was supposed to have done away with all of that. As we near 2004, are we closer to a unified people than we were back then?

Barely 19, I came to the United States to pursue university studies. Now I have reached middle-age and have long ago become a U.S. citizen, a route which affords the privilege of voting one’s individual and group interests where one actually resides. In my heart, however, I will always be Haitian.

VoicesfromHaiti HummingbirdI want my children to learn everything about the culture of their Haitian ancestors. I have retraced for them my vast family tree, going all the way back to a slave named Chicotte. I teach them about the Haiti I know every chance I get, but in the end I want them to make their own choices and grow up to become productive and compassionate human beings in whatever corner of the world they may choose to live in.

picture-haiti.jpgThat’s the story of many of my peers, friends, and relatives. Not all, as some have chosen to go back, at great personal sacrifice. For the most part, we were raised to leave Haiti behind, if not explicitly yet subconsciously, in a relentless and powerful way. Now, when I go back to Haiti, after the first few minutes of exhilaration at the airport on setting foot on the soil that gave me birth and breathing the air that invigorated my unforgettable youth, reality sets in. A reality that is as inscrutable as ever. A reality that begs for answers to these questions: Why would a people do this to itself? Why do foreigners seem more interested in saving Haiti than Haitians in Haiti? What role does the vast Haitian Diaspora have to play in all of this?

One thing for sure, today I am a Haitian-American. Whatever that means, it is precisely what I make of it through my personal choices which are dictated by values and not rigid ideology. I hope that my actions as a Haitian-American, in tandem with those of my friends all over the world, and specifically Haitians in Haiti, will help close the circle one day: Haiti has undeniably given so much of her blood, tears, and guts to the world, we must never lose hope that one day those riches in human and material terms will come back to re-energize her. Perhaps one day, we will stop referring to her (shamelessly) as “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere”, shaking our heads in disbelief at her abject misery. No country that has given so much could be intrinsically the poorest country. We have to change the forces that shape the exodus of her people and her riches. We have to fulfill our mission to become one people. Let us please stop saying vainly: “L’Union Fait La Force”, while stabbing each other in the back. Let us instead act on that worthy principle in our personal lives and in our national life. Only then will the circle close.

My objective is precisely that: to help close the circle. I invite you to join me in good faith and for the good of Haiti. Listen to your inner voice and reach out. Haiti needs all of us.

Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti

Here now is that note that prompted me to write the post about one man’s loss 10 days before Haiti suffered her most devastating blow.

www.voicesfromhaiti.com photoThe best and worst of what happened in 2009 and our hopes for 2010

By Guy S. Antoine

December 31, 2009 at 11:42am

On this day, it feels good to be alive and most definitely healthier—though I probably looked better and healthier a year ago.  Appearances can be deceiving.  In spite of this great improvement, I am not as cheerful today as I was a year ago.  I do not feel surrounded with as many friends as I used to have. The better perhaps to appreciate the love and friendship of those I can still call friends.

I am not as cheerful perhaps due to some personal losses in the second half of the year. So far, my circle of family and friends had seemed nearly invincible. But some cracks have begun to appear.

It all started with the devastating loss of my dearest niece (in-law); she was 47. She passed away on a long-awaited trip to Paris (originally delayed by the events of September 11, 2001). She and her husband would celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, but her heart stopped precisely mid-way between Philadelphia and Paris–and exactly on the day of their 25th wedding anniversary.

The professionals on board, including three doctors, were not able to revive her. The second half of the trip, the back row of passengers was cleared to allow my nephew to spend the remaining time in quiet desperation but with dignity with his lifeless wife beside him. When the plane landed, I was the first one he called and I will forever be chagrined by the depth of sadness and absolute desperation I heard in his voice at that moment.

It was my responsibility to let the rest of the family know, including their 22 year old daughter who had been asleep. Afterwards, it would be her turn to inform her 17 year old brother. I never once thought I could handle such a heavy responsibility, but the unbearable sadness was mitigated in the following months by the resilience of love and the unbelievable strength of my nephew, my grand niece, my grand nephew, and the extraordinary level of emotional and logistical support that came pouring in from extended family members and our intimate friends. This was, in totality, an event that will mark my outlook on life forever. Wanda was “moun pa m.” Wanda was like my own.

A fifty-something man like me never expected to learn that lesson this year from a couple of forty-something women. But life is always full of surprises.


Welcome to VoicesfromHaiti! Get to know us on a different level.Ten days after Guy wrote his  note,  the earth would break open. Hundreds of thousands Haitian lives would be lost. Haiti and Haitians at home and abroad would never be the same.  We are now 10 days away from year #4 after the quake. As Guy put it in 2009: “This was, in totality, an event that will mark my outlook on life forever.”

Thank you, Guy S. Antoine, for letting us share your powerful words.

Happy New  Year!

“Tell Them I’m Still Here” ~ Remembering 1/12/10

1-Hummingbird2 (1)-001“Mommy, Are These Real People?”

My daughter’s eyes were fixed on the red letters that flashed at the bottom of the TV screen: CNN.

I Can Live -- FranceskaI was glued to the couch, watching Andersen Cooper broadcasting the news from Haiti.

Here and again a reporter would put a microphone near someone’s mouth. The person—a Haitian—would say something in Kreyòl; a disembodied voice would give a creative translation that was nothing like what the person had said.

“No. No. That’s not what the person said.” I would shake my head. My mouth was dry. My eyes burned from not sleeping. I could not stop watching.  My daughter wanted to understand. She wanted to understand why I was suddenly so interested in the television—something I had banished to some corner of the house.




I agonized about allowing my little girl to watch the people wandering around Port-au-Prince with tragedy drawn on their faces like massive Ash-Wednesday crosses.

The blood and mud looked like old play-dough. I thought my daughter was far young to see these graphic images. I told myself she would have nightmares. Watching this horror would transform her. She is only five years old.

Five year-old children in Haiti are different; they’re older somehow. Surely there’s some type of math that would substantiate this, particularly when you factor in a 7.0 quake, 30 plus aftershocks, and the estimated number of casualties. The story developing in Mommy’s country now is a must-see. It’s an epic blockbuster.

Frank - 1I sat my daughter down next to me. She watched intently a pre-recorded news segment which showed dazed and dusty people wandering about aimlessly.  The bad thing had just happened.

There were no bandages to cover the scary playdough on survivors’ eyes, arms, legs. There were no shrouded human forms in the middle of the street—not yet. The heaps of half-dressed mannequins with muddy hair and missing limbs had yet to be piled in wheelbarrows and dump trucks.

The former Palais National photographed by kdu: March, 2010“Mommy, are those real people?” my daughter was confused, incapable suddenly of making a basic distinction. She blinked hard, adjusting her eyes.

“They are real people,” I explained. “They are real as you and I are.”

A man walked across the screen with a baby in his arms. The baby looked like an antique doll that had fallen off a shelf and lost a few parts.

“Is that little baby sick, Mommy?” my daughter wanted to know.

“Yes, the little baby is sick.” The truth would have to be rationed carefully– told in increments — over time.

“Tell Them I’m Still Here” words spoken by Maxo Simeon inspired a Short film by Katia D. Ulysse (Estimated release date, December, 2013)

“How can we help them? Do you think they need snacks? And juice boxes? Do you thing we can give them each a Happy Meal? And then they’ll be ok, right?”

“This will take a little more than snacks and juice boxes, honey. Not even a Happy Meal will fix this one.”

Katia D. Ulysse ~ February 12, 2010


Leslie Sauray’s “Untitled”

As the ashes clear and we move away rubble
you see my people still standing, still running
even if we stumble.

We’ve been down worse roads
We have broken many chains
Shaky grounds have been around
Long before the earthquakes came

The after shocks are the souls
of those in the after life
trying to wake us all up
so we can continue to fight

The te. . . levision can’t show
the smell and the screams
So you only got a small picture
even on a big screen