Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Second Anniversary of the Haitian Earthquake

Sister Mary Alban Bouchard

Sister Mary Alban attended memorials for the second anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.

It is 10 p.m., Jan. 12, 2012.  I have just come back to my room from a Memorial mass at our parish, Sacre Coeur, at 5 p.m. followed by watching together the televised Memorial at Titanyen, the place of the mass graves where bodies unearthed and dead in the streets were buried.

Although we had liturgy in the house this morning, I wanted to be among the people to remember the horrific event which is still so seared in our minds, hearts and bodies.  At l'Eglise Sacre Coeur, still several huge tents linked together, the service was almost three hours long but the crowd of some thousands had already been there praying a long time before it began. It was packed with a great many standing. During the few silences, I heard some women weeping.

Just before the mass began, an actor spoke the following lament with some few repeated refrains:  

"They who were brought down in the streets were crying out. They were calling your name,
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Those who were buried were calling out your name:
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
Both were calling you.
Many died
Many survived
Who can unerstand? Only You."

I found this stylized presentation very gripping. It was like a voice from far away trying to reach God for an answer to the mystery of the taken and the left.

At the prayer some names of the dead were listed – children ,women and men, including our Archbishop Serge Miot and one of his auxiliaries, Msgr. Benoit – a poignant loss since all the churches were down except one dedicated to Mary. There were prayers for those of us who had survived, many with losses of loved ones, losses of limbs, homes and injuries. There were prayers for the reconstruction of our country.

On a very hopeful note, before the last blessing, we were shown on screen the plans for the edifice that will be l'Eglise Sacre Coeur. The people were very excited about it and broke into applause several times, for example when they were told the free-standing large cross that stood firm after the quake would remain.

I had a sense that a turning point had been reached in the post-quake grieving. I also sensed it in the event at Titanyen that I will now describe from my point of view. Some of the ceremony may have reached your televisions.

It was a very colourful ceremony. Bright red panels hung on either side of the three crosses that mark the entrance to the area. President Martelly and the first lady, at the siren that signalled a profound silence, laid large floral arrangements on the monument to the dead.  A band with youthful members and bright yellow and red apparel and instruments, played a hymn-like piece written for the occasion.

Then President Martelly spoke with compassionate words of the greatest catastrophe that had ever fallen on Haiti. Then he launched into a series of rhetorical questions which were powerfully moving. Here is what stayed in my ears and my mind from his words;

"A small country, once rich with production and feeding its own people, now suffering from malnutrition and hunger, is that not a catastrophe?
A country where more than half of the children cannot go to school, is that not a catastrophe?
A country where thousands die because there is no provision for health care or emergencies like cholera, is that not a catastrophe?
A country that needs so much reconstruction where people who want to work to support their families cannot find work, is that not a catastrophe?
It is time to dry our tears and seriously build our country ourselves and not have to be rescued by the immense generosity of the world community."

In this ceremony, too, I sensed a turning point. It was a message of compassion and determination that the people are challenged to take up. Remember, yes, but now it is time to advance.

The other message is to return to our motto which is on our flag: In Union is our Strength.

Sister Mary Alban Bouchard


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