A Time to Laugh, a Time to Cry: Haiti–Jan. 12, 2010

11 Dec

Myrlande “M.C” Charelus

mcharel@eagle.fgcu.edu

4:53 p.m. of Jan. 12, 2010, one side of the country, known as The Antilles Pearl or Haiti, has completely turned off. 4:53 didn’t just mark a time but it symbolized a time that Haiti will never be the same. 4:53, the house was shaking, dancing, and things were falling everywhere. The door vigorously shook back and forth while Jeff Etienne was fighting to get out of the house. Etienne’s mom was calling out in Creole, “Jesus, Jesus” she couldn’t understand what was going on but there was no way in hell Etienne could’ve helped his mother.

A typical Tuesday for Etienne was usually to wake up at 6 a.m. He would go straight to the shower while his mom, head still wrapped, prepared breakfast for her kids. Etienne typically would eat whatever his mother made him, but on Tuesday, Jan. 12, instead of the wonderful hot breakfast his mom made, he decided to eat a bowl of cereal and also a banana.

Because of the school’s strictly enforced dress code and because of the high profile school he attended, College Gerard Gourgue; not only did he have to wear a uniform, but it had to be clean every single day. Etienne put on his navy blue pants, white collared shirt and black shoes while he waited for his uncle, their driver, who was coming to pick up him and his siblings and take them to school.

At 7:30 a.m., his uncle raced on his bicycle to get to Etienne’s house; meanwhile, Etienne and his siblings were waiting in the brown Honda his dad owned then. At 8:a.m., school started. While Etienne hurried to get to class, he met his long-time best friend, Gomez. They shook hands and hugged, while also checking and pointing out sexy girls in their uniforms. Both Etienne and Gomez grew up in Cap Haïtian, the capital of the North department of Haiti. Gomez went home the previous weekend because of his mom’s illness. At 8:05 a.m., physics class has started. It was time to put the talk aside; Etienne sat in the front while Gomez sat in the back.

At 3:05 p.m., the day has come to an end, school was finally over. After three long hours of math, Etienne decided to have another conversation with Gomez. Gomez had started to grow his hair; the tiny, sloppy, new growth looked ridiculous, but it didn’t bother Etienne as much as it annoyed the school’s director. Gomez wanted to grow his hair, but it wouldn’t happen unless he wanted to be expelled. Gomez who thought he had all the time in the World to get a haircut, decided not to go to Etienne’s house, but instead went home to do his homework.

At 4:30 p.m., Etienne got home from school. He went in the kitchen; he kissed and hugged his mother, kissed his sister, shook his older brother’s hands and waved to the two maids who were working outside of the house. With his uniform still on, “yes!” said Etienne, It’s time to eat his favorite dish his mom just made, rice and beans, which some will refer to as one of the common dishes from the Caribbean. Etienne took his food from the table and decided to go eat it in the living room where he was watching “KomsiWow,” a common show in Haiti, on Channel Blue.

And then—suddenly, it was 4:53.

“The movement was so strong and I just didn’t know how to get out,” Etienne said.

The wall outside of the house was falling and Etienne could see the neighbors’ houses and people who were running and were crying on the street. The electricity went out, people were screaming in every direction and other than knowing this was an earthquake, Etienne still wasn’t sure what was going on.

Etienne’s mother kept on calling out for Jesus to come secure her, yet Etienne still couldn’t help. So Etienne finally got himself outside the house, but he could not just stand there and leave his mom in such condition. His mother was in the backyard of the house, but for Etienne to get outside and reach her location, he would have to go through the quaking house, which almost just collapsed on him.

Etienne wanted to save his mother, but also was worried about his own life. In order to help his mother, he would have to go back in the house, not knowing which direction to go because furniture and everything inside the house were on the floor and items were violently tossed. Etienne could hear his moms calling for Jesus. “Mom I’m coming,” said Etienne and bang! He fell. His knee was injured.

“Mom I’m coming,” said Etienne again.

Suddenly, someone who happened to live nearby to Etienne’s house heard his mother crying out for help. He came, got her out, then went back and got Etienne. When Etienne got home less than 30 minutes later, he hugged and kissed everyone, but his dad. Then it hit him that his dad wasn’t home. Thankfully, he had his phone on him; he called his dad but there was no answer. He kept on calling and suddenly– his telephone’s line went off.

Richard Michel, an international student at FGCU, who also has a lot of relatives in Haiti, said, “The minute it happened my dad called me, he told me he was okay and then the phone went off; I tried to call him, by then the line was off.”

Etienne finally remembered where his dad had gone, but he wasn’t sure whether his dad was okay or not. After a long two hours of worrying about his dad, he finally came home. The whole family was okay, but the only person he wasn’t sure about was Gomez.

At 8:30 p.m., mom was still in shock, dad was in shock and after a number of aftershocks, and everyone was just over it. Etienne and his family decided to sleep outside instead in the house. No more comfortable bed, no more comfortable blankets, no more comfortable fan, just the grass and the natural air.

10 a.m. of Jan. 13, Etienne and his dad agreed to drive around the city, just to have a glimpse of what was going on.

“I was very shocked; I was so shocked I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was my first time experiencing an earthquake and no one deserved what I saw,” said Etienne.

“Dead bodies were everywhere and people were screaming like crazy,” said Etienne.

Over 250,000 people lost their lives, 300,000 were injured and 1,000,000 were homeless after the earthquake. After the earthquake’s disaster, it left the country of Haiti upside down and it was almost impossible for anyone to travel around the country, due to the fact that rubble littered the streets and homes were turned to ruins.

After a long week without any type of connection, he called Gomez, but there was still no answer. Etienne said maybe Gomez went home to check on his mother or maybe he lost his phone. Other than Gomez, one of Etienne closest friends was Christie. They grew up together but went to different schools. She was just getting out from school when the earthquake struck the island.

“We were in the car and it started shaking. I lost my friends right in front of my eyes. I was scared and I didn’t know what to do,” said Christie.

Both Etienne and Christie found a way to leave the country just five days after the earthquake and they have not been there since then. But that didn’t stop Etienne from searching for his best friend.

Etienne and Gomez’s mother have this mom-and-son relationship, so he decided to give her a call since he couldn’t get a hold of Gomez. After a long conversation, she finally told Etienne that Gomez and his four brothers had died from the earthquake.

“I mean, I had a feeling that had happened after I couldn’t get a hold of him for like a week, but at the same time, I didn’t want to believe it,” said Etienne.

Because of the disaster, it left Gomez’s mother hopeless and childless. She lost all her five kids in less than one minute. And because of her age, it is impossible for her to have any more children.

Etienne has been studying at FGCU since fall 2010 and he plans to travel to Haiti this upcoming summer. The earthquake left the country on a condition where it would take decades to get it back on its feet. As for non-Haitian, 4:53 was just a typical time on a typical day; but for the Haitians that were involved in the earthquake they are now traumatized for life. Some can’t even get on elevators from fear and others are afraid to stay inside of their houses. As the earthquakes 2nd anniversary approaches, at 4:53 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2012, let’s all take a moment of silent for those who lost their lives in such horrendous disaster.

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132 Responses to “A Time to Laugh, a Time to Cry: Haiti–Jan. 12, 2010”

  1. Kristen Maier December 11, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    Thanks for the beautiful and tragic narrative. I can’t believe it’s already almost the 2nd anniversary.

    • mcthewriter December 11, 2011 at 5:32 am #

      Thank you for reading it. Yes, I also I can’t believe it, it seems like it was yesterday…

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