The Living Psalm of Haiti -UPDATE

As so many turn their focus to the special (and possibly controversial) election in Massachusetts, I continue to receive updates from a Haiti-stationed missionary named Ed (via DeLynn), some of which I have shared with you here and here and here, and which cannot be ignored. Ed is outside of Port au Prince, and I have been particularly interested in his reports because, while Port au Prince is getting massive attention, there are people even 50 miles away from that epicenter whose lives are also in a complete shambles. While we hear that supplies and help are on the ground in PAP, Ed writes of seeing helicopters pass by but no relief, “noting on the ground yet,” day after day.

Here is a news report concerning Petit Goave, where Ed is stationed:

Petit Goave, a costal city located about 33 miles west of Port-Au-Prince, was also devastated . . .approximately 60 percent of homes and buildings leveled in destruction, this city is largely in ruins. . . . The immediate needs of the city are enormous. The population has yet to receive the international aid or any significant resources that are being diverted to Port-Au-Prnce. . . There is growing fear of desperation in the city because signs of humanitarian relief that is so prominent in the capital has not yet trickled into Petit-Goave and the surrounding countryside.

That growing fear of desperation is becoming reality. Ed’s daily reports are beginning to lose their buoyancy and optimism. As the people around him become hungry and food supplies run low, as the stench intensifies from the entrapped corpses that they cannot get retrieve to bury, his tone is subtly changing.

This morning, I read his remarks and realized, I was reading a psalm:

It is unnerving to hear so much noise in the night. All of this in the pitch black. If not for the Lord, we would perish with fear. Danger in the streets from gangs and thieves, danger by the water, the mountains continually rumble, and danger IN YOUR HOME.

Where? Where do you go?

I am venting these feelings with the hope of sharing more of the human element involved here. People here have felt abandoned for years. The world goes by as they wait to die.

The longer they wait to help, the harder it will be to help…. and the fewer there will be to help.

Eight days after the quake, helicopters pass over head but do not touch down.

No soldiers or police in the streets.

People’s nerves are getting thinner because many feel we are not on the help map and we are just waiting to die. The tremors keep everyone on edge and they feel if death doesn’t come by another earthquake, it will come by starvation.

Each night that goes by, sleeping in the streets, dealing with tremors, running out of food, no help coming, all of this puts everything closer to the edge of a population earthquake. There are more and more thieves at night. Gunfire at night. Dogs everywhere bark all night long. The nights here are not restful but keep getting noisier and more dangerous.

How brutal is that? Put it in verse form; it a psalm; it is the terrible lament of Jeremiah:

No one shall bury them, their wives, their sons, or their daughters . . .
Speak to them this word: Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, Over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound.
If I walk out into the field, look! those slain by the sword; If I enter the city, look! those consumed by hunger. Even the prophet and the priest forage in a land they know not.
. . .We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.

What a terrible hell has come upon these people, and the immediate situation is so grave all around them, that they will be gotten to “later,” well after PAP has been “relieved.” As refugees from that city evacuate, they will come to a little place like Petit Goave, which will be unequipped to help them, and have nothing to offer them. The situation must look and feel hopelessly bleak to these people who are as vulnerable as can be.

Ed writes more:

Tuesday 8:11 AM Still here. Still waiting. I am truly amazed at the lack of communication and lack of coordination in this relief effort. We have a UN base here in town but there is no activity coming out of there. No police in the streets. A building full of rice was looted right up the street from here yesterday.

The population, all of us, continue to sleep outside. Food supplies are going down. Gas is at best very hard to find. When a little comes in, there are long lines and fights at the gas station. Needless to say the price has gone up considerably. We get NO news here of any kind of a schedule or of plans for help to start arriving.

We have been helping a few hundred people by giving rice, beans and medicine . . . We had a bunch of rice and beans in the school for our feeding program and have given all of that away.

We have enough food for ourselves for a few more days. We’re not eating real healthy, just eating. I have yet to get my appetite back. The kids are all pulling through. The Happy House is still standing with what appears to be not too much damage. But the continual tremors make it a scary place.

Right now the population is ready to, and will, kill any thieves that get caught. There is no jail now. Several thieves have been killed in PAP and some in this area.

The hungrier people get, however, the more they will start doing anything they need to to survive. There is also an anger boiling that nothing is being done here in this area. We hear of PAP and all the help there while we whither away here.

There is enough for everyone, but it is clogged up in politics and poor planning in PAP.

This is very grim. Here is another excellent effort of mercy, called Team Rubicon that is being put-together by a co-operative team of Jesuits and I just sent them a donation after finding them through Insty and Blackfive.

The operation is able to move more swiftly than larger, established aid organizations because it is privately-funded and overcomes three critical blocks in the flow of aid: security, lack of water, and organizational cumbersomeness.”

From a Team Rubicon report: “It looks like Christmas in Hell” and “Bureaucracy is killing people.”

I think this effort is a really important one; people are going to need marines and doctors, yes…but spiritual help, too.

I see this update on their donation site:

Assembling a second team to go to Haiti. In need of: ER doctors, EMTs with pediatric skills. Rally point will be VA/DC. Click here for more info.

Read more about Team Rubicon here

Send money, yes, but pray, too. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, most of whom are simply peaceful people in a harrowing situation, who are doing the best they can as they live out a dark and mournful psalm.

Matt from Blackfive emails:

Do you remember the Chicago lawyer who keyed the Marine’s car on the eve of his deployment? Well, William McNulty is that Marine’s brother. By helping his brother (whom I did not know) fight that case, I’ve become friends with William. Their family has something in their DNA that they do stuff like this.

Do go over to Althouse and watch this incredible, beautiful and chilling video of a woman rescued after 6 days. The love will be bring you to tears.

A picture and update from Team Rubicon:

Team Rubicon member Brother Jim Boynton holds an IV while Jeff Lang assists a little girl with crushed toes in the background. Team Rubicon evacuated two little girls and boy from the Sisters charity in Dalmas.

Fausta links with her Caribbean round up thank you!

CNN: Audio with pics, grim, grim, grim. A nightmare.

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Jennifer

    Forgive me if this is an obvious question, but are we certain that the relief forces in PAP are aware of the plight of these people 50 miles away?

    Could we not find an email address for someone in a position of authority who can relay information and send them this blog post?

    Surely our troops would be there in a moment if they knew… we have to find someone to tell of these poor people. May God sustain them until help arrives.

    [Jennifer - several of us have been in contact with congressional and relief folk about the people outside of PAP. People are genuinely concerned, and I think an effort will be made to at least communicate with these people that they are not forgotten. It's a case, I think, that is analogous to a surgeon trying to save a patient who is bleeding out from everywhere; they don't know what to treat first. -admin]

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  • Gena


    I believe I heard on a six o’clock news report that there was finally aid, via the USMC, in Petit Goave. I hope I’m right.

    Your column tonight is the first I’ve read. What brutal beauty in your words, and His.

    [A note from Ed a few hours ago that yes, today, there was finally some aid, medical aid especially. I'll be posting on it in the morning! -admin]

  • DeLynn


    Brutal beauty indeed. I love that phrase.

  • Tonestaple

    I sent an email to my preferred charity, Food for the Poor, with a link to this post, asking if they can get help to Petit Goave, or get someone to get aid there. Perhaps if enough people ask their charities of choice to get aid to villages outside PAP, the focus will start to widen.

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