Tag Archives: haiti

Haitian: “That’s life…and life, like death, lasts only a little while” (New Yorker)

Edwidge Danticat in this week’s New Yorker has a haunting short essay about his cousins in the Haitian earthquake’s aftermath. The magnitude of that disaster has been too hard to read about on a daily basis, but this obituary has the emotion of a thousand death reports.

The closer:

Everyone sounded eerily calm on the phone. No one was screaming. No one was crying. No one said “Why me?” or “We’re cursed.” Even as the aftershocks kept coming, they’d say, “The ground is shaking again,” as though this had become a normal occurrence. They inquired about family members outside Haiti: an elderly relative, a baby, my one-year-old daughter.
I cried and apologized. “I’m sorry I can’t be with you,” I said. “If not for the baby—”
My nearly six-foot-tall twenty-two-year-old cousin—the beauty queen we nicknamed Naomi Campbell—who says that she is hungry and has been sleeping in bushes with dead bodies nearby, stops me.
“Don’t cry,” she says. “That’s life.”
“No, it’s not life,” I say. “Or it should not be.”
“It is,” she insists. “That’s what it is. And life, like death, lasts only yon ti moman.” Only a little while. ♦

“Haiti, the earthquake, and my family”

Hell on Earth: Haiti Coverage

The Haiti earthquake’s aftermath is so horrible that an anecdote like this, which would be the tragic center point for virtually any other kind of story in the NYT, barely registers until you read it over again (“Looting Flares Where Authority Breaks Down “):

“We are all in a bad way,” said Margaret Cherubin, 41, a merchant who lost her husband, Jimmy, and three children in the earthquake. She said she was afraid to return to work because of her fear of thieves. “I have no family, just the clothing on my back,” she said. “I now live with God only.”

The closing anecdote ends up being even more horrific.

NYT photog Damon Winter, in this Q&A on the Lens blog, talks about one moment that didn’t get captured on camera:

There was one thing that didn’t really make pictures. It was my first night here last night. We were staying at a hotel on the edge of a pretty heavily damaged neighborhood and at night, you could hear people singing.

People are out on the street at night. It’s really hard to photograph because there’s no electricity. It’s pitch black. But all night you could hear them singing prayers. It’s pretty amazing the ways that people are dealing with this tragedy. It says a lot about the Haitian character. They are an amazing people.