Haiti: 100 Aftershocks Later (Updated Pictures)

Pretty Little Girl Near Blue Tarp all photos by Ed

Six weeks after the horrific earthquake that has shaken Haiti to its knees, our friend Missionary Ed writes:

12:17 AM Just had a hefty, albeit short, tremor. Woke everybody downstairs up. I never knew this about earthquakes. I knew you could have a couple of aftershocks in the first day or so, but not the well over 100 aftershocks that we are still having 6 weeks later…

Those people in his community of Petit Goave whose houses were not reduced to rubble (there are only a few standing) have been sleeping and worshipping outdoors, for fear of being trapped in another quake.

Clean Water for the Thirsty

Last week, Ed wrote:

Thursday 2/25 We all slept in the house last night. We all got up this morning. We have collected our tents and are trying to move on to Jan 13th. The loooooong day of Jan 12 appears to be coming to an end…

It is beyond my own imagining. In the meantime, he and his group are distributing thousands of pounds of rice and beans. Everyday these people eat rice and beans, and they give thanks for it.

A Blessing Before the Meal

The distributions do not always go well.
The people of Haiti are needful of many things, including prayers. If during this Lent you are looking to give alms – tomake a charitable donation- please don’t forget them!

In the barbaric cave for the dead

Known in Creole as simply ‘mog’

My trembling hand blesses them

May the angels lead you far, far from here

And do so in all haste

You and this throng of dead that surround you

—Father Rick Frechette, from Haiti: The God of Tough Places, The Lord of Burnt Men

Fr. Frechette on a Better Day in Haiti, (Source)

Back on February I wrote a little about the Passionist priest, Fr. Rick Frechette, who has worked in Haiti for 22 years and has done marvelous work. Yesterday, Matt Labash wrote a great deal more, and it is very moving:

. . .every Thursday—since long before the earthquake—Frechette and a band of Haitian volunteers trek to the city morgue and claim the nameless dead, who lie naked in bloated heaps on a blood-streaked concrete floor. “You’ve heard of Tuesdays with Morrie,” Frechette smiles, “this is Thursdays with the Krokmo” (a Creole pejorative term for undertaker. It translates as the “death hook,” meaning the show is over). The place is jammed and the dead often piled seven or eight high. The workers there are so inured to the stench and spectacle, that Frechette has seen a morgue attendant slaloming on roller blades around the bodies and workers eating their lunch while sitting on stacks of cadavers as though on breaktime in the office kitchenette.

In Haiti, even before the quake, dead bodies were nothing more than background music—as commonplace as they are unnoticed. If they didn’t end up in the stark death-cave that is the general hospital morgue, they were burned in the streets on the spot where they died (a pragmatic hygiene concern). The decency and sentimentality that a better-developed society affords are luxuries here. Father Rick and his men gather the bodies themselves, packing them into makeshift coffins fashioned from supermarket cardboard boxes. They then truck them outside the city, up a sun-bleached highway that runs alongside the Caribbean Sea, to the rolling wastelands of Titanyen, which translates from Creole as the “fields of less than nothing.” A New Orleans-style Haitian jazz-funeral band—all horns and drums—plays graveside. Father Rick, an irreverent sort, calls them “The Grateful Dead.” Then he and his men plant the cardboard coffins in large holes dug by their own gravediggers, endowing their cargo in death with a tiny modicum of the dignity that eluded them in life

Everywhere you turn, it seems, there’s a new horror: the toddler found alive holding the hand of his mother, who lay dead beneath the rubble he was sitting on. The amputee mother I meet in the mini-tent city on the hospital grounds, whose young daughter cleans her wounds as though she is the mother now. The mother smiles and kisses me like I’m an old friend, though she doesn’t have much to smile about. In addition to losing her arm, two of her children were killed.

On the roof of the guesthouse at night, under a starry panorama, the doctors and nurses and humanitarian soldiers of fortune who populate such scenes (aid-organization do-gooders who’ve had their tickets punched in all the dung-heaps of the world) find solace in their cups, trying to make sense of what they’re seeing. They get serious. What’s going to happen when the rainy season comes—and it’s coming soon. Water will swirl all around the tent cities, where people are defecating on the ground. Many of my battled-hardened drinking companions predict that without proper sanitation, immunizations, and shelter, the disease outbreaks could make the earthquake look like child’s play.

Haiti might be the only place where death with dignity entails being buried five-to-a-cardboard coffin. But it is moving and beautiful. Yet, I suggest to Frechette, it seems futile. Why do this? However horrible their lives were, this isn’t going to change that. Why spend so much time and energy serving people who’ll never know they’ve been served?

Frechette thinks about it a long while, then says, “If the dead are garbage, then the living are walking garbage.”

Haiti’s latest horror is far from over. It may only be beginning. You really have to read the whole thing. It’s astonishing, harrowing, inspiring, and to say it puts things into perspective is putting it mildly.

It also puts a strong exclamation point to Pope Benedict’s words about the slavery of materialism -how we who live in more prosperous countries have a kinship with these poorest of the poor, who are slaves to poverty. The kinship is in the poverty. Theirs is material. Often, ours is spiritual.

Doing Laundry, Salvaging Dignity

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta would often say that the meanest streets in the poorest cities did not compare with the spiritual poverty and emptiness of the prosperous West.

There is a slideshow here, meant to accompany Labash’s must-read article. (H/T)

Confounding and humbling. God help us all.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://Etheldreda'splace Supertradmom

    Thank you for your article and comments from the good priest. Dignity to the dead must occur even in the most horrid of situations. The callousness of those who do not honor those dead reveals the same disdain for life as we see in more affluent countries towards aborted children. More than ever, we need courageous missionaries to heal the spiritual wounds of these people. I think that people on the ground are just as important, or even more so than money. Sadly, I am battling extremely poor health and poverty myself, but I can pray.

  • Jennifer

    Reading of what’s happening in Haiti is frankly overwhelming. For what do we pray first? How in the world can that place be restored and the people adequately cared for? It is incomprehensible and overwhelming… it’s paralyzing.

  • Jennifer

    I am glad you share these things with us, Anchoress. Haiti is not in the news anymore and people are forgetting.

    Yet, as I said, to read it is overwhelming to the mind and heartbreaking. The suffering is so massive, so intense, the mountain is so huge it seems beyond impossible to climb. Despair seems appropriate in all honesty. Dear God, what now?

  • http://victor-undergo.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Keep the news coming Anchoress cause God helps those who help themselves. To be honest, I was starting to think that “IT” was getting better, a lot better and that the problem was almost over. Goes to show how wrong some humans can often be.

    I wonder how many of our sins will use this tragedy as an excuse to turn their backs on God again.


  • Peter

    Thank you for keeping Haiti before us. We forget too easily in this, the age of distraction.

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  • Azygos

    Jennifer it does look overwhelming and looking at the realities/logistics a huge tragedy could yet befall the survivors.

    My favorite quote from the bible
    “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ”

    I was always taught to pray for Gods will in any situation, as I do now. I have no idea what will happen in Haiti but I have faith God is in control.

  • dry valleys

    Now there’s an earthquake in Chile.

    On about that

    May be a bit controversial. But I think the reflex to just get outraged at this sort of commentary is getting in the way of a real solution to the world’s problems.

    A bit of secular material prosperity never goes amiss really.

  • mary’s hopefull

    Thank you, dear Anchoress, for this Haiti post; you are right to suggest reading the whole article! How powerful it is! Dear Lord, please show us how we may help, even now…

  • Joan Moore

    I just finished reading the whole article. Once I’d started, it was impossible to stop before finishing. Thank God for priests like Fr. Rick! It is truly only through God’s Grace that he can do what he is doing.

    The situation in Haiti is awful, and it looks like it will get worse before it gets better.

  • DeLynn

    Labash’s article is amazing. Thank you so much for posting. Many blessings on Fr. Rick. It was humbling to read of his work.

  • http://www.beverlywhitcomb.blogspot.com Beverly

    What a powerful post. Thank you for posting this. I’m so glad I found you again. I taught missionary kids in Haiti back in the early 70′s. Several of them have gone down and helped out during these days, helping where they can and translating for those non-Creole speakers.

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