A few weeks ago at church in the home of some fellow missionaries our guest speaker asked us to raise our hands if we remembered where we were when the earthquake hit. Every hand around me shot in the air and to my surprise my eyes immediately filled with tears. Sometimes it hits me in moments so unexpected, and I am back to January 12th when all of it was real and raw.
It was 4:53pm, I had just lived the best day of my life. After spending the hour before supper with Chancelet I entered the nursery for a few minuets of catching up with the nannies, I remember vividly that Chantal and I were joking about my hair color, Patrick came up to me crying and wanting to be held but I still had Chancelet in my arms so I didn’t pick him up. Angry with me he turned and bit me just above my knee, reacting as I would at any time this happened I scolded him and put him into the nearest crib for a time out. He burst into tears. At that exact second the ground fell from beneath my feet.
40 seconds seems like such a short amount of time for the many thoughts and memories that overwhelm my mind. I remember the rumbling before the shaking began, I remember noticing that it seemed particularly loud with almost perfect clarity, a millisecond before I felt the roll. I remember the screaming around me and the terror in everyone’s eyes. I remember praying out loud, in creole. I remember waiting what seemed like forever for the house to tip over and being confused when it didn’t happen. I remember pushing people into doorways before I even consciously realizing what was happening. I remember the panic as everyone rushed for the stairs and the crying of the babies around me. I remember the weight of Chancelet in my right arm and sweeping down to pick someone up on my way out the door, but I don’t remember who I carried. I remember hearing John yell “it’s an earthquake, it’s an earthquake” and at that second knowing that he was right. I remember the eerie silence when the shaking stopped and the sheer terror when it started again. I remember the events of those 40 seconds with more clarity than any other event in my life.
I remember standing outside the gate as massive crowds of people came running down the road, but I don’t remember how I got there. I remember being terrified to go back into the house to help carry babies outside, something I still fight the guilt of to this very day. I remember grabbing babies as they were passed out the door and placing them in groups on blankets in the driveway. I remember looking around a realizing that all of the sudden it was dark, but I don’t remember the sun going down. I remember the lighthearted phone conversation I had with my mom, at 5:08, where I told her about the earthquake that we just had that “felt really big” I remember moving on to tell her what we had for lunch that day, and how it felt to be back. I remember hanging up the phone and turning to the TV as CNN interrupted the story they were airing to bring the news of “a devastating earthquake in Haiti” I remember, at that very second, knowing for the first time that this was very bad.
I remember the look on Jocelyne’s face as she frantically dialed over and over again, trying to reach anyone who could tell her where her children were. I remember gathering in a circle while Claude prayed. I remember rounding up blankets and towels from every room in the house to cover up cold babies. I remember huddling in a rocking chair, on a plastic crib mattress and finally the cement ground, drifting in and out of sleep. I remember the feeling of the world rocking every few minuets and trying to figure out if we were actually moving or if it was all in my head. I remember the voices of the nannies raised in song and learning more about faith from them, in the words they sang, than any lecture or sermon I have ever sat through. I remember the goosebumps raised on my arms as they declared “it is well with my soul”. I remember finally moving to my bed as the sun came up and falling asleep. I remember waking up a few hours later, nauseous from all of the swaying and moving. I remember the moment I realized that I wasn’t going to wake up from the nightmare of the day before. I remember the fear and pain so thick in the air I could almost see it. I remember those hours as a lifetime apart from anything I had ever known. I remember that 40 seconds as the very moments that changed and shaped my world. I remember being turned from what I once was, to what I will one day be.
I remember the reaction from the world and the words that people said to me. I remember being told I was brave when I felt anything but. I remember being held as a “hero” for staying when truly it was a decision based purely on selfishness. I remember the hours and days melting into each other as moments passed so quickly it made me frantic. I remember waking up on February 12th in pure terror because I had no idea where the past month of my life had gone. I remember it in March, April, May and June too. I remember, in moments where I least expect, everything I thought I had forgotten. I remember the feel of the air on my skin and the swimming thoughts in my head. I remember the faces that passed in front of me and the lives they meant. I remember the pain, the horror and the calm. I remember what I thought I had forgotten. I remember when I least expect, the rush of feelings that takes over my life.
Yes, I remember where I was when that earthquake hit.