Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dead bodies don't bother me, suffering does

Sunday we toured downtown Port au Prince. It was sobering and chilling. The level of destruction is staggering. It resembles a war zone. Buildings smashed like clay pots, giant concrete slabs simply dropped down upon innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place. A woman in a car, a bottle of cod liver oil capsule by her hand. A man on a bicycle.

There is so much destruction that dead bodies that can't be easily extracated still remain. Children inside homes. Worshippers inside the Cathedral, caught in the rubble, trying to escape.

This photo is of a man who survived who is now trying to survive himself. He's scavenging from the remains of the St. Vincent de Paul home for the Handicapped, where 7 kids died and many were injured.

Sunday I got hit by a motorbike. It was stupid of me. I was by an elementary school that had collapsed, probably with kids still inside, the same elementary school where one of our staff went to school. I was walking across the street. I didn't hear the bike because he was coasting, which was good because I got a huge bruise that only bled a tiny bit. The fear on this guy's face was horrifying. A gush of Creole spilled out as he apologized, and I just told him, "It's okay, it's okay, I'm okay." Then I figured shaking his hand would signify that I'm ok, so I did so with him and his female passenger. They drove off.

My stupid mistake made this poor man, who is living in a war zone, even more scared. Jesus, why the hell didn't I watch where I was going? Stupid. I climbed back into the Jeep and slapped some hand sanitizer on my leg and I was fine.

General Hospital is overflowing. Relief groups like the Swiss have set up tents on the access roads. This is Bobby, patient number 109. He was grinning when we went inside, and then as I interviewed a mother whose son was injured by falling blocks, and whose other son died when the house collapsed, Bobby started wailing. You can hear his cries on my tape recorder. He started smiling again when our exec. director went over and chatted with him, and signed his cast.

Then there are the tent cities. Yesterday we visited Delmas 40b. 50,000 people living there during the day, the population swells to around 70,000 at night. Yes, there are that many homeless. There's no sanitation. We supplied a water tank that's giving them thousands of gallons of fresh water, but there's no sanitation. When will typhoid set in? Other diseases?

We're leaving today. Yesterday as we left the Haiti office, Karen gave me a big hug and said, "I don't want you to go." I gave her some romance novels, and left her with my Sherryl Woods book I was reading, hell, I can't read now anyway. She kept saying, "I don't want you to go." I feel terrible for leaving, even though the logical part of me knows I have to go home and keep doing my job, tell stories to raise money to help people. But I feel partly like I'm abandoning them. I think the news crews are all pulling out as well, but for CNN. There's a CBS crew staying here in our hotel who checked in last night like we did. I doubt they were arriving, though they could be.

I told Karen, "We'll be back." We will.

What happens in six months when all the doctors, the kind and generous volunteers, have left Haiti? What happens six months from now when someone says, "Oh Haiti? Yeah, aren't they back on their feet yet? Why not?"

What happens when the world has forgotten Haiti once more and the people are still suffering, their children not going to school, fear still etched on their faces like glass scratched by stone, still living in tents, still trying to survive?

Dead bodies don't bother me. The suffering of the living does.


Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

That's why they need people like you, Bonnie, to remind us that problems continue even when it's no longer "newsworthy." I like and support your whole organization for that. You are an inspiration!

Mary Ricksen said...

May you be blessed for your good heart Bonnie. There is a special place for people like you. I so respect it.