Aftershock

8 May

There was an earthquake at 2am the first night I arrived.  I awoke to my bunk shaking and people screaming, and it took me a second to realize that I was, in fact, in Haiti, and this was an earthquake and not a nightmare.  It was a minor aftershock, and nobody was seriously hurt beyond sprained ankles from jumping out of their bunks, but it was certainly frightening.  It was enough to give me some sense of what they Haitians must have felt when their entire world turned upside-down in a span of seconds.  There is no warning when an earthquake comes- one minute the ground is still and the next it is shaking violently beneath you.

I can’t help but gaze up at the massive concrete ceiling at night and think about how it would feel if it suddenly collapsed upon me.  And I wonder- how can the Haitians not be terrified of sleeping indoors at night?  There is a structural assessment team here of architects and engineers who spend the day going from home to home to determine whether they are safe to live in or should be destroyed or repaired.  I talked to one of the engineers about his experiences in the field today, and he said most people are still camping in front of their houses, and that even when they inform them that their home is structurally sound they are too afraid to move back in.   While the focus here is on clearing rubble and rebuilding schools and homes, I can’t help but wonder what kind of consideration (if any) is being given to the psychological damage these people have suffered.

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