Remembering Haiti

By Linda Poteat, Director, Disaster Response, InterAction

As we all know, the people of Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake a year ago today.  The earthquake struck at 4:53 in the afternoon, when many families were separated because of school and work, and we can only imagine the panicked feelings of family members desperate to find their loved ones in the aftermath.  Many of us at InterAction experienced loss directly as a result of the earthquake:  Elizabeth and Julie lost their friend Brendan in the Hotel Montana.  My friend Andy, who was the head of OCHA in Haiti at the time, lost his wife and two small sons when their apartment building collapsed.  The peacekeeping mission in Haiti lost its leadership, over 100 UN staff members were killed and the government of Haiti itself lost hundreds of people, from a minister to junior civil servants.  Though the final tally will remain unknown, over 230,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake, and this is a number that is difficult for us to comprehend.  But each of these people who perished in the earthquake was someone’s child.  And someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, friend or neighbor.  Each of these individuals had their own story that was cut short a year ago today.  As we reflect on the events of last January 12, let us remember that even though the Haiti earthquake has been termed a “mega-disaster” because of the scale of its destruction, it is also a collection of human stories, each of which has special meaning to those individuals who experienced the loss of a loved one. 

This earthquake, like our own tragedy of September 11, is a reminder to all of us that nothing can be taken for granted and that things can change in an instant.  It should be a reminder to us all to never let a kind word go unsaid, and that we should take every opportunity to tell the people who are important to us just how much we love them.