“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Hi! This morning we went downtown to General Hospital to bring someone to see an eye doctor. While driving near the palace on the way to the hospital we noticed that a couple of helicopters had landed on the lawn of the Palais National. After we dropped off the patient at General Hospital we tried to take the same route past the palace and the road was blocked off by the police along the surrounding areas of the Palais National. President Preval must have been on the property. We started taking the route heading towards the Delmas 18 area and followed an alternate route through Fort National. We had heard that the area was hard hit by the earthquake but seeing it showed how bad it really was. It looks like the worst hit area of Port-au-Prince. We talked a while with the people in the neighborhood and came back later in the afternoon with some food. It has been almost 2 months since the earthquake and the neighborhood has not changed much since the earthquake. There is death and destruction everywhere. Fort National has another name now. Its’ new name is “Fort Death”. The people living there are desperate for assistance and are struggling to survive. We took pictures there to show the destruction and they show more than any words could. There are still a lot of dead bodies under the rubble. The young men in the neighborhood wanted us to see the destruction and showed us around with the hope that we can contact people and bring assistance to the area. They told us what happened the day of the earthquake. One church had a meeting going on at the time of the earthquake. The pastor was removed alive from the rubble but died 12 days later. The rest of the people are still inside and dead. Some animals had been feeding on some of the exposed bodies. We were told that 25 people died in the church. A skull had been placed on a downed gate in front of the fallen church. He pointed to where there were bones of people. The roads leading to Fort National were blocked because of fallen rubble after the earthquake and are now open. The people were hopeful that when the roads were open help would come but help hasn’t arrived. The neighborhood was quiet while we were there. All of Port-au-Prince is starting to come to life with activity, but in this neighborhood people are stuck as to what to do because of the density of the destruction. Many of the women and children went down to the Champ Mars park area to the refuge camps there but word is out that people need to move out of the Champ Mars soon. The men and some of the women are trying to establish a home again amongst the rubble of the neighborhood. Bodies that have been found were originally dug into graves, some graves holding 30 or more bodies in the middle of the community. Now the bodies that are removed from the rubble are burned. The people don’t have the material to move all the rubble and nobody is coming to their assistance. The largest landmark in the Fort National neighborhood is the old Women’s Prison, which was closed and is now a UN base for soldiers from Brazil. One of the men in the neighborhood told me what happened when the earthquake struck. Jackson, said that there was chaos amongst the soldiers and the people. People were running to the base for shelter and the soldiers didn’t know what hit them. Like most of the buildings in the neighborhood there was a lot of damage at the base. The soldiers paniced and fired on the people as they tried to enter the base. The guys told us that 20 people died in the shooting. We tried to speak with the commander at the base and asked why the UN has done nothing to help the people in the Fort National neighborhood. We were told that we needed to go to Camp Charlie where the main base is and seek assistance there. On the walls of the base soldiers patrol. We walked around the outside perimeter of the base and came across a collapsed building. There was a skull in front of it facing towards the UN wall. The guys told us that the skull was from a vendor who was selling beside the wall of the base when it fell. The people placed the skull on the opposite side of the road to face the UN soldiers who walk on the wall. We looked up and there was a UN soldier looking down from the wall. I don’t know how the soldiers can do nothing when they have a skull looking at them. The men of the community are willing to remove the rubble. They want tools to break up all the slabs of concrete and wheelbarrows to move it out of the way. They want to get rid of the bodies. The smell of death is very strong. They want to remove the rubble and rebuild their homes in Fort National. This is their home and they don’t want to move elsewhere. We came across a meeting of engineers discussing how to rebuild the community. The sense of community is very strong amongst the survivors. We scrambled over, under and through buildings as the guys escorted us through the neighborhood. Some people would call out to the guys to bring us over to where they lived. We saw one man who had opened up an entrance into his home and through the hole was handing up to his family whatever he could salvage. Jackson introduced us to his family. He has 3 young children and a wife. We left promising them that we would make contacts with people to come to Fort National. Pray for the people of Fort National, especially for the children who live there with death all around them.
Karen Bultje, Coram Deo