Monday, September 21, 2020
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Haiti: Remembering and Rebuilding

Jan. 12, 2011 marked the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that claimed the lives of over 300,000 people in Haiti. We are constantly reminded of that day by the sight of collapsed buildings, streets full of rubble, people with missing limbs and more than 1.5 million displaced families.

This day saw many services of remembering. People gathered in the fields of Titanyin where thousands are buried in huge mass graves. The homily of Rick Frechette C.P., pictured at right, focused on the thousands who died, and the thousands who lived but are forever changed. He pointed out that the massive damage in Haiti is more about the centuries-long poverty of this nation than the quake.

The next morning, the official Memorial Mass took place with the Papal Nuncio in the cathedral courtyard, amidst the debris that once had been the proud mother-church of the diocese of Port-au-Prince.

It was both sad and beautiful to see people praying in front of the large outdoor crucifix that miraculously withstood the quake. Thousands prayed, finding strength and consolation.

The same day, we had our own remembrance at Saint Damien Hospital. This was the hardest as we were remembering people we knew and loved: staff members, family, and our own young volunteers Molly Hightower and Ryan Kloos, who perished in the building collapse. In the chapel, the Haitian flag draped the altar, see below, and candles burned before posters listing the names of all the deceased associated with St. Damien's. This was once the hospital where I lived and worked for most of my years in Haiti. The earthquake affected nearly all of our employees. They are living in foul conditions. Some have lost limbs. Most have lost at least one family member. Yet, here they were, singing of their love and loyalty to God and country.

Haiti has known a very sad year, but it has also known greatness. Children learned to walk again on new 'legs.' Parents rebuilt lives for their children. People made the best of unliveable conditions. Families struggled to accept the loss of their children. And, as Fr. Rick wrote in his New Year's letter, "As the Haitians began the long journey to recovery, volunteers came from near and far to stand in solidarity with them... "

2010 will be remembered as the year that saw one of the worst natural disasters, but it will also be the year in which the Haitian people rose from the rubble and began rebuilding their lives.

by Lorraine Malo CSJ


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