We landed in Port Au Prince at 12:30 pm and headed towards Carrefour, the epicenter of the January 12th earthquake. We snaked our way through the city in a rattle-trap four wheel drive vehicle, passing by the collapsed presidential palace and making our way up Grand Rue. The structural devastation along Grand Rue is beyond description. Four, five even six story buildings pancaked and completely flattened. 230,000 people died in the rubble, and 1.2 million people are homeless, many of them living in make shift tents anywhere they can find a few feet of vacant ground. I mean anywhere.
I was stunned as we headed up Cote Plage, the closest thing Haiti has to a highway, towards Carrefour. We saw children playing in the road inches from oncoming trucks and buses that were screaming by at a dangerous clip. As semi-trucks blew their mind rattling horns, the children’s parents and siblings were bathing, cooking meals, braiding their hair… trying to go about their daily lives. They too were only inches from on-coming traffic.
Out of desperation, hundreds of families built a refugee camp in the median of Cote Plage. Entire families are living in tiny tents that are only eight feet wide and ten feet long. And the tents literally
open onto the highway.
As we talked with the parents and played with the children I was confused by their laughter and jovial sense of humor. They survived one of the worst natural disasters in human history. They experienced tragic loss and immense suffering and now endure the crippling Haitian heat in make-shift tents pitched on the asphalt of a highway median. Yet they were laughing and joking with me.
The Haitians must be the most courageous and resilient human beings on the planet.