11 years ago….my recollection of the earthquake in Haiti

Actually, this story starts 13 years ago.  My husband and I were newly weds.  While we were engaged, he had completed a military deployment in Sudan, and returned back for the wedding.   It was challenging, but we made it work.  A lot of satellite calls, and Skype chats, when there was an internet connection.  I sent care packages, consisting of food and supplies, while planning a wedding.

We had been married a few months, when my husband indicated that he was interested in deploying to Afghanistan.  Sudan was one thing, but Afghanistan scared me…..a lot.  We had a lot of discussions about this.  I knew that he wanted to deploy, but couldn’t he go somewhere safer to serve?

Learning the art of compromise, my husband proposed Haiti.  It was a lot closer than Afghanistan and in my mind, a lot safer.   You have to appreciate that in 2009, we kept hearing about fallen soldiers serving in Afghanistan, and although my husband assured me that he would be safe, it was hard to reconcile him being safe with all of the losses we were bombarded with on the news.  And so, Haiti was the chosen destination.

It all sounded positive.  He was on a peacekeeping mission.  He was working in the UN Headquarters in Port-Au-Prince.  We were in the same time zone and communicating with each other, was a lot easier.  During his leave in the Fall of 2009, we met up in Miami and had a wonderful few days together.  His deployment allowed me to focus on work and news that I had made partner at my law firm.  Things were good.  He remained in Haiti during the Christmas holidays and New Year’s, which I spent with friends and family.

January 12th, 2010 – I was at work when my friend Rina texted me to advise that her father was watching CNN and there had been a massive earthquake in Haiti.  She wanted to know if my husband was alright.  I immediately called the contact number I had for him and kept getting a busy signal.

I frantically did a search on the internet and the information was limited.  At our condo, my husband had given me an Emergency Contact number for the United Nations and had instructed me that in case of an emergency, that this was the number to call.  This was an emergency and I had to get to this number and call it.  This was my mission.  I packed up my belongings in a state of shock with my cell phone steadily redialing my husband frantically.

I remember getting  down to the building lobby and seeing another lawyer from my firm, looking at me in concern.   I explained to him what had happened and he gave me some words of encouragement which I barely heard, as I was so focused on dialing my husband and establishing some connection and confirmation that he was alright.  It was a blur.

And as I drove back to our condo, speaking to my brother, who offered to come over, listening to the news and dialing re-dial, my focus was getting home and getting answers from the UN.  I cannot recall if I spoke to my mom or my in-laws; I know I must have….but I was just focused on getting home.

When I got home, the number for the UN was on the side of the fridge and I called it, without taking off my jacket or putting down my bags.  I had to know if my husband was alright.  Imagine my surprise when the person who answered the Emergency Number did not even know that there had been an earthquake in Haiti and that I was educating her with my call.  I was so frustrated and the hope that I had been holding onto was tested with this call.

But my mom had taught me never to give up and never accept anything but the right answer.  Keep going!

And so I started calling my husband’s military family, to see if they could assist or direct me to someone who could help.  When you are married to someone in the military, you join their military family and that family delivered so much support that night, it was unbelievable.  Calls started being made, and offers to keep me company were made, but I needed to be on my own otherwise I would have gone into hostess mode and focused on others and I needed to keep my focus.  I did not want to be distracted from the news, redialing my husband and keeping the house line open for my husband to call.

During moments like this, you turn inwards.  I am a spiritual person, and I believe in trusting one’s instincts and feelings.  I knew that if something had happened to my husband, I would know.  I would feel it.  My instincts were telling me that he was alive.  I knew his daily schedule and typically, during the time that I was advised about the earthquake, he would have been on his way home, with the other Officers, and I imagined that he may be stranded on a roadway somewhere, but that he was safe…..I felt that he was safe.  That kept me going.

I found out about the earthquake at around 5pm.  And for 5 hours, I tried every means I could, to find out if my husband was alright.  Friends and family provided a lot of support and comfort.

Let him be alright, please let him be alright, was my mantra.  The news had started trickling in and the more I heard, the more I became scared.  Scared, but still full of hope.  I prayed a lot that night.  I definitely found strength through my spirituality.

And then a call……..my husband called.  It was a very brief call – I’m alright.  I’m safe.  I love you.  He had limited time to speak but that was all that I needed.

I spoke to his parents and we rejoiced in the news that he was safe.  He had called them also and they too, were relieved beyond joy.

The next few days were focused on my husband.  I learned that as much as he downplayed things, he was actually within the UN building when it collapsed and was buried alive in debris, with concrete blocks falling on top of him.  He clawed his way out and was eventually air lifted to the Dominican Republic, where he was hospitalized for his injuries.  It was a lot to process.

We were fortunate that there was a student doctor at the hospital, from the States, and this doctor would email me photos and videos of my husband and provide me with updates on what was going on.  He instantly became a friend and knowing that after his long shifts, he would ensure that he was providing me with news, was above and beyond!

Eventually, the decision was made for my husband to be sent back to Canada, for further tests and I was beyond happy, because I had been strongly exploring going to the DR to check on my husband.  When he arrived in Toronto, it is all a blur.  I just remember he looked pretty banged up, but I was happy to have him home.

And then he told me – he had to go back, once he was cleared.  That the devastation that he had seen needed him to go back and help.

And so we put together supplies for him to take that might be in low supply and he left to go back to help.  He especially wanted to go back to check on the orphanage that he volunteered at every Sunday.  Every Sunday, which was my husband’s day off, he would cook pasta and pack bread and bananas and would spend the day at an orphanage in Haiti.  He would take toys and supplies to them.  He had become close with the kids.  He needed to make sure that they were alright.  And when he returned to Haiti, he learned that thankfully – they were.

Before the earthquake, my husband and I had started collecting food, clothes and other donations to send to Haiti.  Our friends, family and colleagues really came through and we had put together a storage locker full of supplies, which eventually, through the assistance of ONExONE and WestJet, was taken to Haiti after the earthquake.

The entire experience taught me so much.  I really learned through the experience, the power of your community and the support that you receive when you need it.  I also learned that for me, my faith and belief, really sustained me that night.

And so on January 13th, 2010, the day after the earthquake, I drove from our condo in Toronto, to our mandir in Burlington, after work, to do a prayer and give thanks to God, for protecting my husband.  And when I arrived at the Mandir, the Pundit provided such support and comfort, and again, I was reminded, that we are never alone.

We are all connected and you just have to be open to receive it all…..good and bad….

And I am just so thankful that my husband’s life was spared.  And that 11 years later, we have our family and that we are grateful….truly grateful for our blessings.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

1 thought on “11 years ago….my recollection of the earthquake in Haiti”

  1. Thanks so much, for sharing this moving personal experience. Your husband (and of course, you) exemplify all that Canadians stand for! It is not just as a leading Blue Beret force, but the acts of kindness, caring and love as displayed by your husband; makes us all very proud – we thank him and you!

    Best wishes to S and your kids and family. Continue to be well and stay safe.


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