Sunday, January 12th marks the 10th anniversary of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti, taking the lives of an estimated 250,000-300,000 people, injuring at least 300,000 more, and displacing more than 1.5 million people. On this tragic day, buildings, houses and schools across the capital city of Port-au-Prince came crumbling down. The event lasted a mere 30 seconds, but this small island nation and its people were forever transformed.
In thinking about how to best honor this anniversary date, we turned to our team and asked them to share memories of this day and the days following. Their stories are not easy to read, but they are real, heartfelt, and they remind us of the deep and powerful resilience of the human spirit. They help us understand that, underneath it all, we are more alike than we are different. They remind us of what is possible when we come together.
We invite you to take a few moments from your day and read these powerful words.
I never expected, when I heard about the earthquake in Haiti, that it was going to be a major life-changing event for me and for Pure Water for the World. PWW was just a small beginning NGO in Haiti, working in some schools, when the earthquake struck. What we did not yet appreciate were the very special and incredible people that had been drawn to work with us because of our mission.
When I went to Haiti, within 20 days of the earthquake, getting into the country from the DR in the back of a pickup truck, I was totally unprepared for what I would see and experience, despite having watched the news and hearing “reports”. I cannot imagine what it was like moments after the earthquake. The plume of dust and debri would have been like an atomic bomb. The screaming and obvious loss of life would have been everywhere.
But our people, the PWW team, rose. They helped carry people to the hospitals and clinics. They helped set up clinics. They brought filters to clinics and field hospitals so that clean water could be used to dress wounds. They organized trucks and water delivery services to take care of the poor. They organized the delivery of water for about 250,000 people for several months. They set up swimming pools, to serve as reservoirs, out of which people could collect water because concrete storage tanks were ruined. They helped everyone they could.
There was no water to bathe. There were aftershocks that regularly brought people out into the streets. I slept outside on the ground next to a Jeep that had been damaged so that I could roll under it when I would awaken and feel the earth shake.
During my visit, I witnessed the enduring will of the Haitian people, and I was overwhelmed with their ability to cope with these horrible conditions. I attended an outside religious service, because there were no buildings to house the people. Everyone there had lost someone. Everyone there was hurt and in some kind of pain, whether physical or emotional or both. Yet, the singing was joyous. The emotions were high. The love and compassion for each other was something I had never witnessed before.
PWW established its reputation as an organization that would get the job done during this difficult time. PWW became respected for living by its commitments, going where others would not, and, most important, PWW could be trusted. We were the boots-on-the-ground that got things done and came up with solutions dealing with water and sanitation. PWW has continued to build upon this reputation, initially established in Haiti as a result of the tragic earthquake.
We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support, from people across the world, in response to the earthquake. They enabled us to quickly respond to this crisis with impactful solutions. Their support saved many lives. Thank you so much.