I was doing rounds in the ravine on Friday afternoon when a freak storm took the entire city by surprise. One minute it was a hot sunny day; a minute later, black clouds had rolled in and it was as dark as early evening. "It's going to rain," Wesnal commented to me. "We should go." I casually moved away from the family I'd been talking to and suddenly a powerful wind burst out of nowhere. The family's tin roof was jerked into the air and the concrete block that had been weighing it down smashed to the ground - landing precisely where I'd been standing 10 seconds before!
Wesnal and I sprinted back to Sherrie's school under torrential downpour and against wild winds. We joined the Gonaives orphans under the covered classrooms as the storm increased in intensity. Around me, the children screamed and trembled and prayed in terror. They were rescued from Gonaives after a 14 foot wall of water and mud destroyed the city in the wake of 3 hurricanes in 2008, so you can imagine how this storm affected them. Even the adults were crying and screaming "Jesus! Jesus, help us!" over and over.
The fear reached a whole new level when a giant gust of wind ripped off a piece of Sherrie's roof, tin plates on a wooden frame so heavy that 6 men are needed to lift it. I gathered all the children around me and lovingly but firmly told them to not be afraid. We have storms in Port-au-Prince but we never flood. I held the littlest ones, Patrick and Lydjer, and moved throughout the rest of them, whispering prayers and words of comfort. Remarkably, a few local students from Sherrie's school who were with us at the time did not get scared but devoted themselves instead to comforting the orphans too.
When it was over an hour later, a wet but calm group of kids emerged from the shelter. Pretty soon, I started receiving calls from concerned friends and co-workers who wanted to know if I was OK. My fellow youth leader Marc called, not just to check on me, but also to tell me about his family's car. It apparently won the fallen tree lottery!
At St Joseph's, the tin fence that they have erected around their property fell over beside my house, but they had it back in place by the following afternoon. Up in the field, a few tents were ripped and a few tarps came off, but it was all easily fixed. Some tent cities were not so fortunate. One of our youth group teens had his tent so completely damaged that we've had him staying with Marc and Scotti while we find a new arrangement for him. On a positive note, I have heard about some families whose tents were destroyed thereby forcing them to move back into the intact homes that they have been too frightened to sleep in since the quake.
As if the day's adventures were not enough already, a young man came to my door that evening with a nice gash beside his eye. He'd been climbing a concrete wall trying to pick kenep (a small sticky fruit) and had fallen. I stood there, picking bits of concrete out of this boy's head and trying to ignore the earthquake memories that came flooding back. He was very brave and never even winced as I cleaned him and stitched him up, but I was glad when it was over. I enjoy caring for wounds, but this one was just a little too close to the multitudes that I doctored in January.