Imagine that you live in a two storey house where the second floor and ceiling/roof are eight-inch thick slabs of concrete, threaded with rebar. Imagine that the walls are bulky concrete blocks set between twelve-inch square concrete pillars. Basically, you have tons and tons of reinforced weight above and below you, mixed with tons and tons of projectable weight around you.
And then it starts to topple with the force of a hydrogen bomb exploding in your midst.
Do you run for the door? Do you try to go room to room to find your children?
The Country Director of GAiN (Campus Crusade) lives in a home that doubles as a guest house for visiting teams. In the compound is an above-ground pool that allows westerners like us to find temporary relief from the baking sun. He told us that, when the quake struck, the water leaped twelve feet into the air, from side to side. His home is near the airport, US Embassy and UN center of operations, well away from the areas of significant damage.
Many of the structures that fell are literally piles of broken rubble. Some have already been scraped by heavy earth-moving equipment, but others look the same even though they are untouched by track hoes and bulldozers. We asked one of our hosts whether certain structures had been broken up by excavation efforts. "No, they fell like that," he replied.
Basically, the force of the quake, a power so strong that it caused water to leap more than twice my height miles away, and that toppled all of the medications off of hospital pharmacy shelves more than sixty-five miles away, grabbed these massive concrete structures and sent roofs, ceilings, and walls shooting in at all angles. Like blades going through a magician's box, these levels of concrete pierced from all sides, except that the illusion was all too real. With the continued shaking, the heavy reinforced roofs and floors collapsed down, with some houses looking like layered cakes with the icing between layers representing crushed possessions, crushed lives. Other buildings, devoid of rebar, were literally ground to pieces as the powerful friction of rubble against rubble pelletized everything. Houses acted like huge stone crushers, with people caught in the drums.
In the eye of such power and such volumes of flying, grinding concrete, you can't choose between running and finding your loved ones.
You don't have time to make such painful choices.
Survivor's guilt is another part of the pain that endures here.
"Why me and not my mother?"
"Why am I alive and not my baby girl?"
We've continually met children where six, eight, or eleven of their family members died. One was sent out by his mother to get water, only to return to see his whole family dead. He kept repeating, "But my mom asked me to get water, she asked me to get water, I just got the water." In his mind, his obedience to her request has now been contorted into some sort of selfishness on his part; that he shouldn't have gone out; that he should have died with them.
And then there's Analya (not correct spelling.) Analya is a cute-as-a-button five year old that we met at one of the churches we visited yesterday. Her mother was outside talking to a neighbor while her father was standing nearby. Analya was in the house and, as it started shaking violently, she escaped through a side door. Her father wasn't aware that Analya had already made it out and, as Analya looked on, he rushed in to save her. Seconds later he was crushed to death, never knowing that his little girl was safe. Analya looked on as her father ran to his death . . . because of her.
Anayla and her mom now live in a field, robbed of their house, a provider, and the love of a father. When I met her she was quiet, sad and hungry – three things that she'll probably be for a long while.
The weight that is now upon her, that she will bear for a lifetime, is much heavier than any amount of reinforced concrete.
The Haiti Orphan Relief Team (HORT) can be found on Facebook.
Abandoned-Orphaned is the personal blog of Paul Myhill, President of World Orphans. Subscribe to the blog in the upper right-hand corner of the home page. Paul can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @paulmyhill.
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