Last Tuesday, Jan. 12, a 7.0 earthquake hit a little-known Caribbean country, Haiti, killing and injuring thousands of people.
I found out about it that night on the 9 o’clock news and immediately thought of my brother Jimmy who was living in Port-au-Prince, the capital, along with my many uncles, aunts, cousins and long-time family friends. I thought about our house there, the one my Dad was sending money to rebuild.
My whole family was shaken. We were traumatized and scared. We were afraid that something horrible might have happened to Jimmy. We were afraid that he was severely injured or even dead.
Strangely, at first while I felt a bit uneasy I was not frightened. Then it hit me and I froze with the horrible thought of living without my brother and imagining the impact his death would have on our family. My heart ached. But I kept telling myself, “He’s fine. He’s strong. He won’t be brought down easily, for strength and bravery are two traits he inherited from our father.” These words calmed me and my fear eased.
Over the next few days I continued to go to school and attempted to live a normal life of laughing and talking with my friends. But I could not escape my thoughts of Jimmy. And every time I turned on the TV there it was: The Today Show, World News Tonight, Diane Sawyer. And every time it was the same horrible pictures: the footage of people, my people, crying, suffering and screaming. I saw the crowds stuck in a hell without food or water. There were people covered in dust, the lucky ones pulled out of collapsed buildings. Then there were the injured, just lying there out on the street, unable to get the care they needed desperately.
I imagine such images have horrified many others around the world. Now imagine that person lying there is your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your family.
After two days we got the good news: Jimmy was in perfect shape and unharmed. I was ecstatic and full of joy. But while my personal pain decreased, I still felt awful for my fellow Haitians. My heart aches as they continue to suffer. I continue to pray for them along with my family, friends, teachers and I imagine much of the rest of the world. For it is my belief that these prayers will sustain my Haitian people the way the prayers and good thoughts from my friends and school teachers sustained me.
I deeply appreciate the people who came up to me in person or on Facebook or via text, asking me if I was okay and if my family in Haiti was alright. They truly helped me through this painful situation.
Yet, despite the lifting of my family's burdens, The Haitians are still suffering, both those in Haiti and those who still are awaiting word from their brothers and sisters, their mothers and fathers, their Jimmies.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, possibly the poorest. This recent disaster isn't helping. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was suffering from a cancer, long cancer that was killing it from the inside. It was a cancer of ignorance, corruption, and evil. The government was lacking the true leadership necessary to help its people.
I believe that the United States should continue to send help over to Haiti and continue to help keep the peace there. But I also believe that when it comes to politics, Haiti should be allowed to determine its own path, even if it is a slow process. One country should not play too much of a role in another country’s government.
Haiti has a rich and wonderful history, and the people still retain the pride of the many great deeds that we have accomplished in the past. We never forget that, even though we are suffering greatly right now. I still look towards the future and see promise. I see potential. I truly believe it.