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A Long Time to Heal

Karen, our start-up Operations Manager for the Haiti Disaster Response Program, spent the day in Port-au-Prince on the February 8, 2010 and shared these thoughts.

Driving through some neighborhoods, I was initially surprised at how quickly the Haitian people seemed to be getting back to normal. Street vendors were once again trying to make a living. Water stores were re-opened and people were lined up as they would on any normal day. Women were doing their laundry, and small children sat nearby eating a snack.

Then suddenly the entire landscape changed. Just five minutes further down the road every other home or business appeared completely destroyed. The rubble of collapsed multi-story buildings was a horrifying reminder that many bodies had yet to be unearthed. Huge trucks of every imaginable kind were tasked with clearing the streets of rubble, big and small. And in every available lot or open space, multi-colored tent cities grew even as I watched.

Perhaps the most telling sign of how this tragedy will affect Haiti for years to come could not be understood by looking at the physical devastation, however, but by speaking with the Haitians themselves. Although the Haitians are known for their remarkable resilience, their eyes cannot hide the horror and untold sadness felt by those personally affected by this most recent of Haitian disasters. Each Haitian I spoke with had lost at least one family member, while many had lost more. And, of course, those tragically orphaned by the earthquake have lost everyone and everything they have ever known.

I cannot imagine how millions will manage to heal from this, but I do feel it will be a very slow and painful process. These survivors of one of the worst known modern day natural disasters need all the support this world has to offer. And as I flew over Port-au-Prince on my way back to base, I silently prayed that the giving would be real and enough to soothe the deep wounds left by this earthquake.