Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Sky is Crying

Last night

It was the end of the school day. A student stayed after class to talk about her grade. 3:05 I notice it's raining. Shoot- no soccer scrimmage today. It's really raining hard- dang it, I guess we won't be walking to the bakery for my birthday ice cream.

3:10 kids in the hallway start screaming.

9th grade boys. Oh man. I can't even describe. Before I even get into the hall, in the 10 minutes they've been out of class, they have decided to run out into this flash flood- style rain storm. They are soaked to the bone. They are dripping and running in the tile hallway, which is now a muddy slip 'n' slide. They are screaming. They are kicking a soccer ball around.
The rain is torrential, out of nowhere. Then the winds pick up- the strongest winds I have ever seen. The kids are running from the doorway of the high school building to the classrooms to look out the window. They're running in the girls' bathroom to look out the second-story window that looks over the school wall- out onto the street. The Haitians on the crowded streets are huddling together under street vendor umbrellas. It occurs to me- the tent cities. The people in them...
 I clear out the girls' bathroom and just then the wind rips the metal bars off the outside of the window. More yelling. A few seconds later a giant tree outside our building split in half, with the biggest branch crunching down on a middle school teacher's car, shattering glass.
While I am moving kids out of the classroom overlooking the smashed car, I hear Ben in the hallway, yelling at the top of his lungs over the squealing students. He gets them all to stop yelling. He gets them all to stop running. He gets them all inside and says sit down, stay put.

Then the lights go out.

I pray with some 9th grade girls who are upset. One says she still feels really traumatized from the earthquake. Where were you? In a bank. Ben runs across the street to our apartment and gets a rain slicker and flashlight, then charges out the door to go see what's happening in the admin building and the elementary building. Some kids come up from downstairs and report that a bunch of middle schoolers are crying. Two elementary kids are on the high school floor, and they are both upset, but being comforted by older siblings. Every single kid has out a Blackberry- I am not exaggerating (Blackberry is very dominant here. iPhones don't really work here and aren't common). Some start playing music. BBM (Blackberry messaging - practically like air to my high schoolers) is down, someone yells.

Ben returns and yells that all students are to get their belongings and walk together over to the elementary building. Other teachers take the first group of kids, but Ben and I wait for one last kid to get her things. She's an elementary girl, and she is upset. Ben holds her hand and I walked behind them, through the crazy downpour. All the way over to the elementary building I can hear him talking to her- "what is your favorite subject? I teach history, do you like history? Who's your best friend?" I fell in love a little bit more.

A handful of teachers and the 30 or 40 students still on campus stand on the elementary building porch and watch the lightning and rain. The ground is completely covered in palm branches, mud, and sticks. The mahogany trees all over campus had been full of seed pods- apple-sized wooden seed pods that have now fallen, sounding like gunshots when they smack on tin roofs. The ground is covered with them, like golf balls on a driving range. The rain lets up a bit, and now it is cold. The Hendricks boys play in the puddles.
 Cars pull in the gate, chauffeurs emerge (yes, chauffeurs- it is very common here), and we release kids off the porch to get home. Word trickles in that roads are blocked, tents are blowing around, and traffic is hellish. The sun sets. It reminds us all of January 12th- the sense of emergency, the fear, the phones aren't working, the parents unable to get to school. I remember all the things I said I would do after January 12th that I have not yet done- the first aid kid, the "go bag", the extra phone cards and flashlights and water.

At 5:30 or so it's just me and Ben and 10 or so kids. I had a long talk with two of my students- 9th and 10th grade girls who are cousins- about their "what I want my life to look like at age 25" essays. One confesses her family is still not sleeping in their bedrooms. For fear of earthquakes, they're in the foyer every night. Mr. Dekoter brings out 3 hot garlic rolls, and we all stood in a circle and got a big pinch. It feels kind of like a Lord's supper. We laugh at the fact that a "campus beautification day" is scheduled for the next day, we talk about Twilight, we talk about summer camp and tattoos. Somebody gets some chairs from an elementary classroom, so finally we all sit down. We promise that anybody left at 6:30 gets to come to our apartment for spaghetti. We make mohawks with wet hair.
At 6:30 there are just 3 kids left. It's completely dark, so the school closes the lower gate, the one parents usually come in. We go sit on the Hendricks' porch, near the front gate. The Hendricks bring out some vanilla crackers and their 4 little boys entertain us all, throwing mahogany seed pods, kicking soccer balls, climbing on the porch rails, and trying to teach their 2-year-old to say "sil vous plait".

6:45, parents arrive for the last kids. Our pilot friends say the winds were 60 mph. Ben and I walk home in the dark. Fat full moon. The street is wet and very busy. Every lady has a plastic bag on her head. We make mac and cheese and check our electricity- working, praise God. Dry clothes.

Breathe out.

Today, "beautification day" went on as planned, just with a slightly larger workload.
You can see Ben in the purple shirt, trying to pull a limb. There were chainsaws involved in this project, so he was delighted. What is under these downed limbs, you ask?
Look closely on the left side, under the giant limb on which our auto mechanics teacher/ plant manager Wilner is sitting. Yes, that is/was a large blue SUV. Did I mention there is no car insurance here? What a huge loss and headache for the family who owns it.

Whew, what a day.



  1. Compliments for your blog and pictures included, I invite you to see the photo blog,

    Each week released a new album

    Greetings from Italy


  2. Thank you for sharing, found this post from Ruth's blog. I used to go to QCS, I can see the episode vividly in my head.--I experienced the flood over the phone with my mother who was hiding in the church that's not too far from QCS on Delmas 75.

  3. I heard there were at least 6 deaths caused by that storm. So glad no one was hurt at the school. And then all the tents... :-(

  4. So glad you both are ok. I kept thinking about all the little children that come from the tent city for the feeding program at Child Hope. The storm must have hit about the same time they would have been fed on Friday. Just heartbreaking. It all seems a lot more real--having just been with you guys.

  5. Welcome, Talie! I've read your blog a few times on Ruth's recommendations, and it has really helped me understand more about Haiti. I hope your mom and the church were ok. Sus, you are right- they were just about to feed the kids. When the rain started, the kids ran home, but then ran back later when it stopped to report that their tents were messed up. I read an initial estimate that over 5,000 tents were destroyed.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...