The day before we left – we were making final arrangements for Wisley, Jose and I to travel to Gonaives. We were going to bring some supplies – food and clothing. Magdala and Roselande said they had family there and wanted to go with us. We laughed because as we got into the truck that next morning we found: Magdala, Roselande, Jacques, Pastor Jean Claude, Ceremone, Francis, T-man, and Benna. Apparently EVERYONE wanted to go and see for themselves.
We had a great trip down – even though the roads were so bad. I don’t want to hear about the summer people’s horrible bus trip – you wouldn’t even recognize the road now. Wisley who lives in Gonaives who knows the road like the back of his hand said he doesn’t even recognize it anymore.
As we bumped are way there – it was almost a game. I felt like I was with a car full of kids. We had to stop for someone to use the bathroom, buy a drink, buy bread, someone’s hat would fly off, someone dropped their glasses – I bet we wasted an hour just having to stop every 15 minutes for something. It was rather humorous though.
So we get closer to Gonaives and we can no longer find anything to drink. Well Magdala surprises everyone and has a cooler of – not coke, not sprite, not even water – but ICE COLD ENSURE! LOL! I don’t think I’ve ever drank ENSURE as a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon – but we’re in Haiti!
We had not one, not two, not even three – but FOUR flat tires! Wisley said that might be a record for traveling to Gonaives. The road was blocked in some places – not even a bike could pass through. Parts of the mountainside had just washed away. We saw 20 large trucks with food and diesel who were waiting to head up north but were stuck. We went up another mountainside area and got our own vehicle stuck. We had to get 30 guys to LIFT the truck out of the mud. We had the same problem coming back. We were going to spend the night but it was beginning to rain again and they were afraid more of the road would wash out and we wouldn’t be able to come back.
It was like being at a movie – everyone is talking through the previews and then the show comes on and it’s quiet. That’s the only way I can explain the silence. We were joking and laughing the whole way there and then we arrived and everyone just got quiet. The adventure was over and we were at our final destination and no one knew what to say – no one knew how to react – so instead of saying anything for nearly 30 minutes we just looked in awe.
This was Wisley’s home town and almost everyone in the truck had been here dozens of times. We drove slowly through some of the streets and the silence broke when I heard Wisley cry out to God. Tears streamed down our faces – and while the men tried not to show their emotions – it was too much.
We first met Roselande’s family. They told us that the mayor had said a hurricane was coming and so everyone headed for the hills to be safe. But then later he said the hurricane was over and everyone went back home. The hurricane headed back though – and caught nearly everyone off guard. He said they were sleeping in their home when they got a phone call from Port-au-Prince that said the hurricane was coming back and to get out of their home. The phone call woke them up and the water was already two feet high on their porch. They went out their window and went to higher ground. Their neighbors didn’t have windows they could get out of though – they were concrete. He said they yelled and yelled for people to come out of their homes but they never saw their neighbor or his children again.
A lady told us that she was sleeping and she heard the noise of a house that had blown literally right beside hers. She had a concrete home and their house was wood. She said in the morning when it was light enough to see some of the damage – although the rain was still coming – she saw several bodies floating in the water – three of them were children she knew from down the street.
There was a point where we could no longer drive. I’ve never in my life seen so much mud. The streets themselves were completely covered with a solid foot of mud. Then you had areas – much like snow drifts – where there could be as much as 5 feet of mud. We entered into a house that had 10 feet of mud. It was so dark the pictures didn’t turn out. Everything – gone.
I talked to a little boy who lives with his uncle now – he said his dad died a long time ago and he hasn’t seen his mom since the floods. He is digging out his home right now – praying she’s not in there. He was staying with a friend that night.
Our guide took us by foot to the houses on the beach. He shows us a place where 10 children along with 8 adults had drowned right along the beach. While we were walking through the areas – we had another lady come to us. She told us she was asleep when the storms came and that her baby had been on the floor. She woke up from the noise of the wind but the baby was gone……she’s never seen her since. The baby was 14 months old. Her house was right on the beach.
They said that the water brought mud and debris – and trapped people inside their homes. Without being able to open their doors – there were families that all died together – trapped.
The smell was horrific – unlike anything I had smelt before. But you somehow got used to it – maybe because your sense of sight was so overwhelmed. There were so many things – so many stories I wish I could tell you – so many pictures I wish I could have taken. Most of the people didn’t want their pictures taken or any video because they said you come and take pictures but no one ever helps us. A few people allowed me to take their picture because I told them I wanted to remember their faces when I prayed at night.
I saw about 5 women at random times carrying little kids in sheets. I asked Magdala how is it they have these nice white sheets when everything is so dirty here. Did the red cross give them out – or what was the deal? She looked at me almost surprised that I didn’t “get it”. She said Jody – those white sheets are to cover their dead children. They have no place to lay them – or to burry them. What? I know white sheets are for that but I’ve never seen people just carrying their children that way. I didn’t even think about it. I can only imagine the horror of having one of my kids die and then have no place for their body to rest in peace….so I just carry them around as I wander through the streets – for days even? How does that even work? How does the UN or the Red Cross even allow that? They are so overwhelmed with their efforts they probably don’t even know.
We saw furniture on the tops of homes – whatever people were able to save. We talked to a family who had three families living on their home with them. I saw a small tarp that was used to cover them – how in the world did that protect them from anything. May I never cry fowl when I get wet in my tent. They have no place to go – their houses are destroyed and the sleep on a roof with no protection from the elements. So they were blessed enough to survive only most now wished God would have taken them.
I don’t even know how to write about this – God has yet to give me the words to really express it all. Wisley called me around 11:00 today to check on me. He asked how I slept and I told him I was up till nearly 2:00 working on this video and he said – that he hasn’t slept even yet. To see his town this way – he said he just collapsed last night in his room and cried and prayed.
Magdala and Roselande were up early – went to the 4am church service. They said they couldn’t shut their mind down – even today cannot shut it down. The video doesn’t show the images quite as clear as when you look at them large on my computer. We were showing the Haitian employees what we saw and they all were completely amazed and thanked God for their own safety. When we told them the stories we heard – they grew quiet – with very red eyes….
On our way out of town – we road in silence. Still not knowing what to say to each other. Then I look up to the right of us – there it is – a rainbow in the sky. A rainbow that nearly covered the entire mountainside where Gonaives was. There was something about it – something we all felt – a promise – a sense of hope – that we’re not alone. Small raindrops began to trickle down – perhaps even God was crying with us……
Taken right as we left Gonaives….