On the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, we're honored to share several personal stories of hope and faith from some who survived and continue to work and live amidst the ruins. Thanks to Kent Annan, author of the new book After Shock: Searching For Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken, for gathering these letters from his friends and colleagues in Haiti. Read more about his book, including an excerpt, at the Patheos Book Club.
A year ago I was on the third floor of a six-floor university for a class on pedagogy. It was afternoon. I'd missed the previous class so while we waited for the professor to arrive, I talked with a couple of friends in the back of the classroom. There were about twenty of us there.
Then the building started to shake.
I had no idea what it was, but grabbed the metal bars in the window beside me. Then everything collapsed.
A large slab of concrete hit my back, but then seems to have protected me as the rest of the building collapsed around us. The two other friends I was talking with were nearby. It took about ten minutes to each dig ourselves out.
People were screaming, trapped. I think many others in our class, who we'd just been with a few minutes before, died in an instant.
I stumbled out to the street. I started realizing it wasn't just our building, but more, many more. I still didn't fully understand what had happened.
A stranger came by and helped me to a public square two blocks away. He continued on. I lay down and then realized I was too hurt to get back up. It passed as a night of trauma, but also of faith. Hundreds of people out in that public square in downtown Port-au-Prince sang together and prayed.
I eventually got home and within two weeks, still with some pain in my leg, was back in the city to work.
My family lives a few hours away, but I wanted to be back in the city. I wanted to be back working on education. I wanted to do my part in rebuilding my country.
So where do I find hope now—when things are still so hard, when we lost so much, and when new things like cholera are happening? I find hope in my faith and in my work. My faith in God, that ultimately we are all in God's hands, even when things are in horrible shape. I also find hope in the progress we make in our education work on in schools and churches.
Hope in God and hope in working hard on my small part, with others, to make things better.
As told by Kent Annan
Guilloteau, Enel, and I were driving from Port-au-Prince to visit a couple of our organization's schools in the countryside. Enel wanted to drive through the heart of downtown, which looked like it had gone through a five-year war in thirty seconds. A few months before countless thousands of people had died in the densely populated blocks.
At one point I started to feel vulnerable down there. A lot of pedestrians and then a block with not many people. Roads blocked from rubble. Tough-looking young men. It always amazes me that it's not more dangerous, when I think about how much need there is in Haiti and what I might be willing to do if my family didn't have enough food.
So I was driving and feeling a little tense, and then I feel Enel and Guilloteau get tense. The men with t-shirts tied over their faces so they'd breathe in less concrete dust suddenly looked threatening.
Finally we found our way out and onto a main street. "That wasn't smart," Enel finally said. Ten minutes later, as we were driving through another part of the city where violence sometimes flares up, Guilloteau said loudly, "Stop! I don't know what he's doing with her."
I stopped quickly. Guilloteau jumped out of the truck. Enel and I shrugged and watched as he walked across traffic to where a middle-aged man was leading a young woman by her shirt collar and yelling at her while carrying a long stick.
Many people were busily walking in the street but not noticing the man. Guilloteau walked straight toward him and stepped directly in front of him. In a calm way Guilloteau started talking with him. They went back and forth. Eventually others stopped. A crowd formed. The conversation got heated. Enel and I were a little nervous.