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The Haiti earthquake became one of the most serious tests to human endurance in the Caribbean region. Much has been written and said about the effects of the earthquake on the lives of Haitians. This paper is a response to the Edwidge Danticat’s article A Little While. The thoughts and feelings, as well as the knowledge of the Haiti earthquake, are discussed. The paper includes a brief comparison of the Haiti earthquake and its consequences to other situations and characters. Implications for the future of Haiti are discussed.
The earthquake stroke Haiti on January 12, 2010. Almost two years have passed since the moment the earthquake almost erased the island from the face of the planet, but the social and economic aftershocks of the natural disaster continue to persist. Edwidge Danticat’s article A Little While describes the immediate effects of the Haiti earthquake on people and their first reactions to the natural disaster. What Danticat (2010) writes in her article borders on fantasy, because it is virtually impossible to imagine the degree of patience, endurance, and optimism experienced by Haitians after one of the most devastating natural disasters in the history of humanity.
Danticat (2010) describes the events and consequences of the Haiti earthquake at the beginning of 2010. The immediate reactions of people to the physical pain and emotional sufferings that followed the tragedy in Haiti are at the heart of Danticat’s article. The author describes the most surprising experiences of the Haiti earthquake through the lens of her relationships with the relatives from Haiti: the story begins at the moment Danticat (2010) learns that her cousin Maxo died when the house he lived in collapsed on him during the earthquake. This is when the author decides to uncover the most surprising aspects of the Haiti earthquakes and the ways people react to natural disturbances of this scale and magnitude.
I think that the main goal of the article is to surprise us and teach us the value of endurance and reason in the face of a huge tragedy. Needless to say, the Haiti earthquake was a disaster of an unprecedented magnitude, a tragedy leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths. While reading the article, three different things surprised me. First, I was astonished by the calmness and emotional stability of the Haiti people after the earthquake. Second, I realized the emotional distance between Haitians and the rest of the world. Third, that Danticat (2010) was able to describe the situation in Haiti after the earthquake without visiting it suggests that there is no way to learn about natural disasters better than dealing with people directly. In this article, Danticat (2010) exposes the hidden complexities of natural disasters and their emotional effects on people.
Danticat (2010) presents the story of the Haiti earthquake in a new light. The patience and endurance of Haitians after the earthquake can hardly be overstated. While the entire world was gathering the broken pieces of the Haitian economy and social heritage, Haitians spent their days and nights looking for their relatives and friends. It should be noted, that the life in Port-au-Prince has never been easy. Danticat (2010) writes that her cousin Maxo always talked about the high prices of food in Port-au-Prince, trying to make his ends meet and support his five children. The time he spent in prison made him extremely sensitive to the issue of prisoners’ rights in Haiti (Danticat, 2010). He would call his cousin and ask for money, buy food and send it to the national penitentiary (Danticat, 2010). Given his contribution to the lives and wellbeing of dozens of his contemporaries, it comes as no surprise that immediately after the four-storied building collapsed on Maxo and his children, friends and neighbors started to dig for his family (Danticat, 2010). Weak and exhausted, people continued digging even when there was little hope to find them alive (Danticat, 2010). These are the endurance and generosity that are difficult to imagine in the developed world – the endurance and generosity that reveal the huge emotional gap between Haitians and the rest of the world.
The emotional gap between Haitians and the rest of the world is one of the dominant themes of the story. The author finds all possible and impossible excuses for not being with her relatives in the difficult times. More surprising is the fact that even at times of the trouble, her Haitian relatives do not forget to inquire about their family members living abroad (Danticat, 2010). It seems that the developed world with its technologies and transport has broken the balance of humanity and humanism. Emotions and compassion are no longer part of people’s daily routines. In this sense, the article describes the unknown side of the Haitian tragedy, which is usually hidden from the eyes of the common observer.
What do we know about the tragedy? The abundance of information about the Haiti earthquake in newspapers and magazines, on television and radio can hardly be overstated. Nevertheless, the most important aspects of Haitian life have been persistently ignored by the public. In her article, Danticat (2010) tries to close the existing information gap. On one hand, Danticat (2010) changes the public opinion about natural disasters and the emotional consequences that follow. Certainly, it is possible to assume that the prevailing majority of Haitians were shocked by the earthquake and could not reasonably evaluate the seriousness of the situation they were in. However, it is more probable that the earthquake simply invoked the best features of the human character, from patience and endurance to helpfulness and support. It is difficult to imagine that members of the developed society would dig for their relatives and families with their own hands. They would prefer waiting for professional assistance and emergency rescue.
The story also emphasizes the difficulties and problems faced by Haitians before the tragedy. It is not uncommon for the developed world to cry for help and provide humanitarian assistance after natural disasters. However, the earthquake revealed the main economic and social problems that had been plaguing Haiti for decades. It seems that Haiti existed beyond the realm of public awareness until January 12, 2010, when it became the central object of international attention. Danticat (2010) tells the story of Haiti troubles. In this story, children never celebrate their birthdays because of poverty, teenagers and adults are denied political asylum in the United States, and adult Haitians go through imprisonment and lose their relatives but, nevertheless, keep overseeing the architectural state of churches and schools in the island (Danticat, 2010). In this story, people have enough money to make a call to the United States but fail to meet their ends. They fight to support one another because they get no financial or social assistance from the developed world. This support and commitment to relatives and family members culminates the moment the earthquake destroys the state of Haiti.
In my mind, the character of Maxo and the rest of the Haiti population is associated with the image of Robin Hood. The latter did not have anything of his own but managed to care for and support those who lacked even the basic means to survive. After the earthquake, thousands of Haitians had to sleep in bushes and went through severe hunger (Danticat, 2010). They did not question their fate and did not ask why they fell victims to a terrible natural disaster (Danticat, 2010). Instead, they kept silence and stayed calm to be able to fight with the hardships.
The earthquake destroyed villages and towns (Danticat, 2010). Thousands of people were left to survive in the streets, whereas thousands of others lost their relatives and family members. They silently accepted their fate. They knew that nature and life were testing them. Not a single tear dropped from their eyes, while those living miles away from the epicenter could not stop crying, crying because they thought they had to; a misbalance of values? – no one can answer this question. However, the story of the Haiti earthquake suggests that it is high time for the humanity to reevaluate its attitudes towards nature and people living at the other end of the earth. Eventually, there is nothing more immediate and unexpected than life.