In the past week I've been doing some intense reading. It's about time, right? I think it's the first time I've picked up a book since graduating and fully understanding my new freedom to not read. Most of the time I find if difficult to really get interested in a book. I tend to give up on it before I ever get attached to it. I'm not much for fiction and prefer, instead, biographies or real stories. My past favorite books have been about the Holocaust, Haiti, or civil injustice.
Most recently, my heart was aching for Haiti, so I ventured to Barnes and Noble to look for a book to motivate me. I was hoping to get my hands on something about Haiti. I had a stack of books in hand, only to realize that I didn't have even a penny with me- I had left my wallet at home. I put down the books and hopped on the internet. Luckily Ebay knows all my billing info :) I ordered the books online, all but one. The Third Wave, by Allison Thompson, was just published in July and was not yet on ebay. This was the book I was most interested in reading, it is about a woman who volunteered in DC after 9/11 attacks, in Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2004, and then In Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The book is an account of her experiences. I craved to read it, and I didn't want to wait days. I went home and got my wallet and returned to a different Barnes and Noble to buy the book. I searched in a frenzy, scared it was sold out. The book was in a different section at this store and after asking for help, I found it under "new biographies." I started reading it that day. I carried it to work with me during the week and took my lunch breaks alone so that I could read uninterrupted. It was so powerful to read about 9/11. I was only 13 years old during this tragedy, so to hear about it now as an adult and a nurse, it broke my heart. My eyes welled up with tears as Allison recounted on trying to pull out bodies from underneath the buildings, and running for her own life when the attacks continued. Her experiences in Sri Lanka taught me a lot about emergency response. I was inspired by all that she accomplished with just a few friends. Even when relief efforts pulled away, she stayed for years, making jobs for the people, rebuilding schools, and advancing emergency preparedness for the city she was stationed in. The last section of the book talked about the earthquake in Haiti. This is the part I was most interested in. My body began to tremble as I relived the terror of hearing the news of the earthquake that tore about the homes of many people I love. I fought back tears and at times had to set my book down and just cry out to God. During the days after the earthquake life was a blur. There was so much that needed to be done, that there was no time to reflect on what was happening around us. In reading about the story, it was like being back in Haiti and seeing it all in slow motion. Allision saw and heard the same things in Port au Prince as I saw and heard in Leogane. The long days, the shortage of supplies, the lack of pain medicine, and patients dying for lack of simple medicines such as insulin. She also reminded me of going to sleep hearing the songs of angels throughout the tent cities. As night would fall, the voices of the Haitians would join in sweet songs of worship to their King. Songs of hope, songs of faith. Something else that struck my powerfully was that people from nations from around the world abandoned what they were doing in their own lives and came to Haiti as fast as they could to do whatever it was to help. There were people from Japan, the US, Germany, Sweeden, and other countries. All different languages, different technologies and strengths, different areas of medical expertise, and coming from very different walks of life. All joining together and giving attention to the sweet island of Haiti that for so many years had been left to suffer on it's own. The problems didn't start with the earthquake. There were many political, social and environmental problems before Dec 2010. The problem is that there wasn't much global attention on Haiti. For a few weeks after the quake, suddenly Haiti mattered. She was on the news, and everyone wanted to help however they could. Even celebrities from the US visited Haiti to do their part.
I finished the Third Wave, and just in the nick of time, my next book arrived in the mail: Haiti after the Earthquake, by Paul Farmer. This book is much different. Paul Farmer is a physician that has been going to Haiti for years and years and first started by providing Tuberculosis and AIDS treatments to a population that was quickly dying from lack of treatment. He co-founded the foundation Partners in Health and has since created a hospital and many schools throughout Haiti. His story walks me through the years leading up the earthquake and also describes the hurricanes that hit Haiti just a few years before the earthquake. It was disheartening to read about all of the work that had been done to try and get Haiti back on her feet after the hurricanes, just to see an even greater tragedy hit and cause Haiti to take steps backwards from any progress that had been made during the years leading up to the earthquake. His story is different because he was involved in Haiti before the earthquake. So when he says in his book that "everyone who knows someone in Haiti can tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard the news of the earthquake," I can relate. My mind brought me back to that tragic day. I remember babysitting at the neighbor's house and getting a call from their grandpa telling me that an earthquake hit haiti and I should turn on the news. It must have been less than an hour after the quake hit that I got the news. I frantically searched for the remote and turned on the tv only to see that the epicenter was Leogane, the place where all my friends and babies lived. I was anxious and helpless. Absolutely nothing else mattered to me in that moment, other than to know that the people I loved were okay. I searched through my phone and called every number I knew in Haiti and was unable to contact anyone. I resorted to my US contacts, most of whom hadn't heard of the earthquake yet, nonetheless heard anything from our friends. I could relate to everything Paul says as he talks about the days after the earthquake. Once again, it brought tears to my eyes. I wish I would've written more in my journal about those days. But each day drained every last drop of energy out of me, both when I was in the US and also when I finally made it to Haiti, one week after the earthquake. On a positive side, I do remember God's faithfulness during this time. I remember the miracles he did in my life to make it possible to go and help at the tent hospitals. I remember how people literally dropped money into my hands, and how a private jet appeared out of nowhere, all so that I could make it to Haiti to help. Sometimes I'm confused about why God made it possible for me to go. I mean, I was only a nursing student and there were many more qualified people for the job.
I still don't have an answer for that, but I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to go. As I read others' experiences of the earthquake, I think to myself, what would it be like to read this and not be able to relate? The earthquake will effect the lives of the Haitians for years. It is a terror that effects many of their life decisions. I understand. Even a few days ago at the Mall of America, I felt my heart skip a little as the floor was shaking from the amusement park and rides. To anyone else, it is unnoticeable, but in Haiti when something shakes, you bolt outside for immediate protection. The Haitians are always second-guessing the safety of structures and many still refuse to sleep inside a house.
What I take away most from these books, is a hope and encouragement, because there are others around the world that care for Haiti the same way I do. Even though at times it can seem I am alone in my passions and focus, it is not true. There are people doing some great things for Haiti. People who have sacrificed their careers and homes in the USA to commit themselves to bettering life for people in Haiti. So a big thanks to the heroes who are in Haiti day after day, not receiving media attention, and living on only dollars a day. I will join you soon :)