I used to have a life. It is gone. Can you imagine that? Everything that you knew, everything that made up your day – gone. Now, I have a new life, but it does not resemble my old life.
I used to have a job, several jobs actually. They are gone, buildings disappeared into piles of rubble and patients disappeared to the countryside. Now, I have a new job, but it does not resemble my old job.
I used to have friends. They are gone: dead, injured, or evacuated. Now, I have new friends, friends that I love, but they do not resemble my old friends.
I used to have a home. It’s gone, replaced by a dormitory for relief workers and a storage room constantly filling and emptying. I have a home, but it does not resemble my old home.
I used to have a community. It is gone, shattered by death, fear, forced evacuation, and insecurity. Now, I have a new community, made of amazing neighbors and little children, but it does not resemble my old community.
My new life is strange. It is different. It is not what I expected my life to look like as a 24 year old single white woman alone in Haiti. Yet, for all its strangeness, this new life is a good one. I am more connected to the community of Delmas 91 than I would ever have become had the quake not occurred. My new friends are people that I would never have befriended had the quake not occurred. My new job and my new home, as hectic as they are, fit me, my experiences and my personality.
I am still reeling from the emotional and spiritual toll of all that I have seen and done in the past 3 weeks. There is so much to process and so much to forget. Some things are a total blur; others are branded into my memory and will always be there. I wish I could forget them.
A dump truck full of corpses driving past me. The sinking feeling in my stomach when I looked at that woman with crushed legs and told the men to cover her back up, there was nothing I could do for her. Standing at the edge of a massive refugee camp and feeling too exhausted to treat a single patient. The smell of rotting bodies emanating from collapsed buildings. Lying on a pad on the floor as the building shook from aftershocks and assuring Bill that everything would be OK even though my heart was beating a mile a minute. The panicked screams on the streets of Delmas and the cloud of dust that cloaked the city. Watching TiPatrick shiver and thinking, “He’s going to die tonight because I was not more experienced.” The look of death on a little boy’s face after he was rescued from his home only to die 10 minutes later in his mother’s arms. My bloody hands at dawn after that never-ending first night.
It happened. An earthquake hit Haiti and my life vanished. But I am alive. I am unharmed. And I have work to do. Lots of work to do. So I embrace this new life and step forward, one dusty, tired step at a time.