This week, one of the St Joseph's boys came to me in obvious mental distress. "Kez, you won't believe what I did today at school!" he moaned.
Emmanuel's English teacher asked him to stand in front of the class and teach them some English. The 15 year old told the class to clap their hands. They did. Then he told them to stomp their feet. They did. Hard.
Instantly, the other classes began to panic. The noise and the vibration made the students think that another earthquake was happening! Emmanuel watched in horror as teens, young children and even teachers fought over each other to get out the doors. He saw people knocked over, trampled, and violently shoved aside in the frantic exodus. "I spent the rest of class crying," he admitted.
Fear is still rampant in this country. I estimate that more than half of the people living in tent cities have a viable home to which they could return, but fear of living under concrete keeps them in the tents. How long will it last? How much rain will have to fall before my neighbors, my patients pack up and go home? Or will Haiti become a permanent tent society?
For months, Frantz has been the only one of the local children who will come into my house. Finally, this week, the rest of the kids came in and one even asked me if she could spend the night. But their parents are not pleased. They want the children under tarp or tin roofs only and they certainly don't want them anywhere near the debris of St Joe's. I haven't felt a tremor in over a month, but to be honest, I still flinch at the sound of my gate rattling when it's closed or at the slighest shaking of my bed. In February, radio stations and television channels were predicting another large earthquake before the end of the month. Now, they are saying it will hit before the end of the year. So people stay out of their homes. But how long can one continue to live in fear? If the prediction gets pushed back once more when 2011 arrives, will my community still be afraid?
Perhaps we just have to wait it out. Perhaps it will be a gradual process as families move one by one back to their homes. If they do not, will it be such a tragedy? I suppose not, though it is sad to have lost every open space that was once available for soccer games. But it is not the act of staying in tents that bothers me; what bothers me is the fear that makes them stay in those tents. Stay if you will, my friends, but let us work to cast fear out of our country!