Wake of Earthquake in Haiti

This is a long story but an amazing story..and worth the read. This is the story of one family in Haiti and the tragedy they have endured. Haiti is about half the size of Maryland, but while Maryland has less than six million residents, Haiti has nine million. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with staggering rates of illiteracy and unemployment. When the earthquake hit Haiti on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 12, 2010, it struck just 16 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, a city of two million. Measuring 7.0 in magnitude, it was the strongest earthquake to hit the area since 1770. The death count from the disaster is now 316,000. Another two million people were left homeless in the aftermath of the quake and an estimated three million people needed emergency aid, especially food, water, as well as medical supplies and housing. The world was ready to help, but with the absence of any functioning infrastructure, it was nearly impossible to organize the resources that were being pledged. Even today, the promised dollars far outstrip the country’s ability to use them. Estimates suggest that 630,000 people remain homeless, many in dangerous tent cities. Cholera continues to be a serious threat and rebuilding is slow in spite of millions of dollars pledged globally. When the earthquake hit suddenly there were nine million without power, terror and confusion spread quickly. Among the terror and confusion was a young lady named Edeline Felizor who at the time of the earthquake was on the second floor of a four-story school when the building collapsed. She listened to the moans of her dying colleagues in complete darkness, unable to free her arm from the rubble on top of her. She sang gospels to abate her fear and pain. Finally, a single man with a crowbar broke through the mountain of rubble and unfortunately was unable to free her from the concrete rubble on top of her. Luckily a passer by was able to help the man to free Edeline and place her in the front sit of an abandoned car. She would stay here unmoved for three days until the fourth day, phone service was reconnected, and Edeline was able to contact with her sister, Isemene, several hours away in Cap Haitian. Isemene borrowed money for bus fare to travel the 100 miles to be with her sister. Her nearby family scrounged gas money and a car to retrieve her from the school. Edeline was in horrible pain and deteriorating daily when she arrived at Double Harvest. Bryon Shewman was there, doing volunteer translation work to help in the relief for all people affected by the tragedy of the earthquake. Something about Edelines’s shining sprit and calmness, in spite of her pain and fear, captured Byron’s attention. Frustrated by the lack of help for Edeline, Byron decided he was going to get her to the one of the only working x-rays in the area, which was run by an Israeli camp. An Israeli ambulance truck, filled with very sick Haitians took Edeline, with Byron at her side to the Navy heliport. Finally, with the sun setting, Edeline was at the door of the helicopter, only to not to be loaded. After 18 hours of struggle, Byron was filled with despair. After ten minutes, to his amazement, another helicopter appeared the last of the day and Edeline left, alone, for the USS Comfort. Byron, who had left his medical team to go home without him, came back to that helicopter pad for eight straight days trying to find out what had happened to Edeline. Unfortunately, communication problems and continuing chaos prevented any information to get to Byron. There were no commercial flights back to San Diego and by a stroke of luck he found himself aboard a four-seated plane bound for Santa Domingo and on a flight back to San Diego. Once home Byron was determined to bring Edeline to San Diego. Networking his way through every possible contact, he finally reached the Navy ship where her surgery was done. “The Navy people were great, and I was able to determine that Edeline had been sent home.” Only later did he learn that she had left in a little boat with a bag of Tylenol. “I was worried because I knew how badly she was going to need rehabilitation if she is to avoid spending the rest of her life as an invalid, unable to earn a living.” Through peer determination Byron became new best friends with the director of Humanitarian Parole for Homeland Sercurity, and somehow an amazing relationship developed, and the director began taking Byron’s calls serveral times a day and pulling levers that wouldn’t otherwise be pulled. When Byron learned that the Port au Prince airport was about to reopen, he booked an American Airlines flight for Edeline and Isemene to come to the U.S. the first day flights they were authorized. Through power of will Edeline and Ismene got through thousands of people outside the airport and boarded their flight only twenty minutes before it departed, how emissary from Homeland Security with their visas on the wrong side of security found them, how they coped after having never been in an airport or on a plane is not, even now, transparent. When Byron collected them in Los Angeles, it was 2 a.m. California time and a day beyond when they left Haiti. At 4 a.m. in the pouring rain they arrived in Imperial Beach. This story is far less tragic for the young women from this point forward, but arriving in America does not magically fix all of their struggles but has been the beginning of something magical. Stephanie Hoffman was sought out to help in the rehabilitation of Edeline and little did she know how her life would change from Edeline and Isemene showing up on her doorstep. Edeline’s condition at this time was five broken vertebra and a dislocation at the very top of the spine, C1 and C2 which surgery aboard the USS Comfort was performed to correct. Since that day, Stephanie has been an integral part of these girls life, helping begin “Project Edeline” and helping rehabilitate Edeline’s cervical condition. Project Edeline has since 2010 rebuilt a school in Edeline’s village, which provides free education and has provided a place to learn for the children in the area (Edeline’s dream come true). These images are the documentation of the final steps of this school being rebuilt and a tribute to the beginning of this on going project to rehabilitate Haiti after their horrible tragedy. This is the story of one person, amongst the tragedy of millions, with stories just as moving as Edeline’s. I will be selling a book that will help support Project Edeline and all relief efforts they set out to commence. As well, the purchase of this book will help fund the school (Edeline Felizor) that has already been built in Edeline’s name by the Project to provide free school for children and will continue to be run by donations from people like you. Sponsorships if you choose to support this project beyond the purchase of this book can be chossen by visiting http://ljspt.com/HelpHaiti.htmlor http://youthwborders.org/ to take part in the continued relief efforts for Haiti. Photos were taken by Garret Scurr of Scurr Photography: garret@scurrphotos.com