It had been an average day in the office, conference calls, report writing, fighting off the mosquitoes that plague us here in Haiti. My clock showed just 10 minutes until it was time to leave for the day, when without any warning the ground made slight movements, which rapidly became violent. The earth shook harder than I have ever felt before, I ran to the door but could not get out. I hid under my desk, my hand pressed up against the surface protecting my head, hoping it would hold up to the pressure of 2 stories falling on it. If I were buried under a ton of debris, would I ever get rescued? Was this the end for me?
As quickly as the earthquake started, the violent tremor stopped, everything became still again. Covered in dust, I scrambled shaking over the rubble by the office and made it out to the safety of the street outside. People were coming out stunned, some crying, some injured, some silent. A count of heads to check everyone was present showed one member of the team was missing, stuck under the rubble. Companions brought him out and they carried him unconscious on a piece of the gate on their shoulders to the nearest hospital where he later died. Several of the hospitals had already collapsed. Home, schools, offices — the buildings we spend our lives in become our greatest danger.
Cars were left abandoned in the street, roads were impassable covered by collapsed walls, buildings, telegraph poles and crushed vehicles. We walked the long way home not saying much, amongst people praying, crying, hysterical. It was surreal. We made a large detour around the petrol station that had exploded but was still making uncomfortable noises. A couple of people were wailing outside a collapsed building, the broken sign on the wall showed it had been a university.
Communication in emergency situations is often not easy. The phone networks were either down or overloaded so it is impossible to find out if our friends were okay. I had no way of letting my family know that I had survived and just hoped that they wouldn’t hear about the earthquake until tomorrow. We have no idea where was worst hit or how the rest of the country is doing.