Haiti: My Country

A thunderous noise startled me. A series of crashing sounds followed. Was the car in the garage moving on its own? Why were things flying off the walls, shelves and out of the cabinets? My sister and I ran outside through the back door. As soon as we were clear of our home, it collapsed. We fell together. I looked up, a confused and bewildered 9-year-old girl. What was happening? Fear and desperation overwhelmed me. I sought comfort and an explanation, but there was no one to give these things to me. Where was my grandmother? Where was my brother?

We picked up the strength to walk to the front of the house. That’s when we saw her. My grandmother was half-buried under the roof. Her back was still inside the house. The rest of her body was on the outside. Everything happened so fast. There was no time to mourn. We still needed to find my 6-year-old brother. We spotted him running in our direction. His head was red with blood. Frightened, we ran to a nearby clinic. The nurse, afraid to go inside the badly damaged clinic, treated my brother and other patients outside. Running back and forth to get supplies, the nurse risked her life to save the lives of others.

Still distressed, it began to sink in. My grandmother was dead. Still shocked and confused, I cried. Three hours after the initial earthquake, my mother was still unaccounted for. She had been at a funeral when the quake hit. As aftershocks shook the ground beneath our feet, my sister and I heard my mother’s voice. She cried out in agony as we ran to her.

Like thousands of Haitians, I will never forget Jan. 12, 2010, when a regular day was interrupted by the deadliest earthquake in recorded history. It killed more than 300,000 people and changes the lives of millions of others. I would take days before I would understand what had happened and months before the harsh images began to fade into the shadows of my memory. At times, I can still hear the eery wail of my mother’s grief-stricken voice. I can still see my grandmother’s body. I can still feel the warm blood gushing from my brother’s head.

With the darkness, there also was light. With the loss, I gained something special: a constant reminder that life is a gift, one that should be cherished. I try my best to live well. My experiences are shaping my future. In January, I received an acceptance from Florida State University. With financial aid and some scholarship money, I will be able to attend for free. First, I owe thanks to God for giving me the strength and opportunity to pursue my dreams while still withholding my ethics and traditions. When I came to America, not knowing the language, I was determined to work as hard as it took for me to succeed in everything I do. Now, I am proud to be graduating in the top 2 percent of my senior class.

I still think of Haiti fondly, but President Donald Trump rocked my world last weekend. He called Haiti a “Shithole.” But he’s wrong. Haiti always will remain the country I love and adore. It taught me to have strength and courage.  It is a beautiful country with a rich culture. It’s home to Bassin-Blue and Labadee, destinations which tourists continue to visit because they know the true beauty of the island. Besides, Haiti is not the only country with crumbling neighborhoods and crime-infested neighborhoods. U.S. cities, including those with the largest companies and biggest skyscrapers, also have their undesirable parts. 

In a Haitian, you also will find a love for freedom and a deep sense of pride. We were the first transplanted Africans to gain independence from powerful nations such as the United States, France, and Spain. We embrace our African roots and celebate our culture, which we reclaimed from those who once tried to wash it from our souls. 

In Haitians, you will find resilience. Since the earthquake, natural disasters have continued to present challenges. Each time, people try to rebuild their homes and recover from disaster only to be faced with another. Still, the people continue to show courage and resilience. They work hard to supply for their families. In a place where the government does not take responsibility for its people, citizens are obligated to take responsibilities for their own welfare.

And, yes, Haiti has relied on the help of others. Is it a bad thing for people, who are in affliction, to seek help from other countries? Of course not. It’s human nature to help your neighbor through hard times.

Haitians who’ve lost everything during the earthquake and came to America eight years ago through the Obama administration have built a life here. Their children have learned the language, been looked down upon by others and suffered from bullies. At school, they’ve had to work twice as hard just to meet the standards and still, many of them strive beyond average. Many parents are forced to work at minimum wage, pick up trash and even flush down toilets so they can assist their children’s needs.

There’s a bottom line to all of what I say. Too many Haitians have worked too hard to be publicly disrespected by the president. In times like this, we, as a society, need to forget our differences and come together. We must end the abuse against, not only Haitians, but all people, particularly those who are minorities. When one gets hurt, everyone must help. If not, there will be no one left to tell the stories of those who suffered from racism, sexism, and abuse from this president. Bigotry and nastiness will reign supreme in the United States. And then it may be the leaders of other nations classifying the United States as a “shithole.”