I’ve been in Haiti for only 2 weeks and invited a friend over to my apartment after being in front of my laptop for a tiring day of working on various projects. We were in my kitchen drinking a couple of brewskies (Prestige Beer) and cracking jokes. It was very quiet, and all of a sudden the building went through a very brief, but powerful series of jolts, and I thought my downstairs neighbor had dropped something REALLY HUGE on the ground. The building literally went “Goudougoudou goudougoudou”!
My friend and I looked at each other with worried looks as we instinctively realized we had just experienced a tremor. Having rushed here after the earthquake of January, 2010, I had felt much more powerful and longer aftershocks, so all I could think to myself was “This is still happening?”
We went up to the window, looked out, and could hear people all over the neighborhood saying things like “Li pase, li pase” [It passed, it passed”]. People were also very calmly streaming out of their homes, cell phones in hand, determined not to be indoors for whatever mother nature might have in store for us next.
My friend had a terrible experience during the quake in 2010, losing his mother and multiple friends, and all of a sudden (and understandably) felt extremely uncomfortable in my third floor apartment. However, he was the brave one, as many friends of mine refuse to come upstairs, and insist we conduct meetings in the parking lot below. As I took phone calls, and updated my Twitter and Facebook statuses, he politely, and patiently waited by the kitchen window, as his eyes quietly pleaded “Pascal, let’s go!”
I did not experience the earthquake on January 12, 2010, and didn’t feel the same kind of urgency he was obviously feeling. I was the crazy Diaspora, who didn’t mind living on the third floor of a building in Port-au-Prince. I can only imagine what it felt to be violently jostled around for 45 long seconds, only to witness massive death, dismemberment, and destruction...if you survived! What my friend and other Haitians who went through this know, either subconsciously or otherwise, is that buildings that did go down in the 2010 quake, did so in only the first few seconds of the ground shaking. What do I know. I’ve never been in a crumbling building, nor experience a building collapse in front of my face...my apartment survived the 2010 quake and seems solid enough.
Last night’s 3.5 tremor which may be laughable to Californians, or the Japanese, hits a raw nerve for Haitians who have been through one of the most destructive temblors of all time. Although it happened over three years ago, the earthquake is ever present, and has forever changed the Haitian psyche. The other day I walked into a supermarket undergoing renovations. The cashiers were very uncomfortable, and jumped every time a jackhammer sent vibrations through the building. To this day, overhearing various conversations in public places, and on public transportation, you often hear someone referring to the earthquake, either directly or indirectly; “This weather is just like the day of the earthquake.”, “I used to do so and so before the earthquake.”, “So and so doesn’t speak to me any more since the earthquake.” etc… Nowadays, I even find myself jumping at any strong vibrations, or listening intently to suspicious noises.
As I put the final touches on my post-tremor Facebook and Twitter communications, I turned around and found that my friend had had enough of being so far off the ground, had left the apartment, and was waiting for me downstairs by the car. As I drove him home, I realized that hundreds of people had left their dwellings, and were simply out in the street to avoid being indoors. There was no panic in the air, but going outside was the simple routine people seemed to have come up with to cope with these tremors, which although infrequent, have now become part of everyday life in Port-au-Prince.
Pascal (CoolP) Antoine
Minor earthquake – Haiti Region on February 26, 2013
Tremor shakes Haitian capital, sends people running to streets; no damage reported