HAITI: An American earthquake survivor writes to Ezili Danto

JANUARY 28, 2010 9:10PM

An American earthquake survivor writes to Ezili Dantò/HLLN

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From Haiti -An American earthquake survivor and witness writes to the Ezili Dantò/HLL network

Thursday, January 28, 2010 6:58 PM
From:Haiti earthquake survivor and witness of Trees for Life Haiti
To: Zili 

I have not had internet access until now.....I am an american living in Haiti for over 20 years and established Trees for Life Haiti. see treesforlife.org. I had my computer with me to write what I am sending. I want to thank everyone on your site for the information and motivation to change the way life is here. Mother Earth has broken the system and it is time for a new system and a new way of living in this beautiful country with its amazing and beautiful people.

GS - Haiti earthquake survivor and witness
Trees for Life Haiti


Today is the 3rd day after the earthquake in Haiti and I am in my tent on Boutillier. I am from the US and lived in California for many years thru a few low point quakes and tremors. I am used to the kind of response that I would experience in the US after such a great disaster, but today in Haiti it is both heartbreaking and heartwarming to see the reaction of the people who have never been thru any kind of disaster on this level and most do not understand what has happened. Where I am and where I have seen in parts of Petionville Delmas and listening to others who have been in other part of this city and the country. NO RESPONSE for 3 days. No police vehicles, no Red Cross, no NGOs, no Minustah. No one on the streets to offer any help or direction. Only the radio announcers telling everyone to stay outside. Thousands have slept in the parks in Petionville with the stench of dead bodies. Some have no damage to homes but are told to sleep outside and breath the contaminated air.

It is almost 4pm and the Americans have just secured the airport. The first response we hear on the radio is to put toothpaste under our noses while they spray “something” in the air for the smell and rotting of dead bodies that have been laying in the streets for 3 days. What are they going to spray us with???? “something is all the Haitians are told. Something will be sprayed soon and what will it do to the survivors and all those still sleeping and living outside? The country is now in control of the US Marines or whatever entity which has announced the “takeover of Haiti." Food and water is not entering by the airport but diverted to the Dominican Republic and trucked in. I guess this is as close to a “rapid response” for the people who are out of food and water today.

Maybe this is why they have ask all Americans to leave. I am not leaving by choice as I have family ties and many friends since living here for 20 years. 

On Boutillier 7 people died in a church that collapsed. Walls built around the big mansions collapsed and houses built close to the Laboulle sand quary buried. Many people lost homes and family. This morning the only boutique having 5 gallon water were purged by the rich families. The boutique had 9 gallons 5 and were being all purchased by one rich person til I ask her please to leave 3 bottles for others to buy. I could only buy one bottle for 11 people who are sleeping next to our tent and are part of my husband's family. I see no caring or concern for the poor people who are tramatized and very scared that another quake will happen and more loss and injuries.

CNN reported after the quake the following morning that help had already arrived. We can see the airport and we drove the streets in the afternoon and we saw no help. Today around 2pm we drove by the airport seeing no response or help in any of the areas we drove. 

One thing that is amazing to me is that there is very little looting or damage by people to property and everyone is staying together and taking some actions like clearing the rubble and taking bodies to the Morgue. The destruction is massive in some areas of the city but in the upper part where people are basically just in shock and looking for food and water, a response is manageable and could save lives. 

I don’t know if we will have water or food tomorrow or the next day. I cannot reach anyone by my Digicel phone but I have heard that we can get help sometime soon but not how or when.

The window of opportunity has opened for a great takeover and we shall see how the Americans and the foreign response value the lives of the survivors.

I am an American living in Haiti for many years. We established trees for Life Haiti and have been planting trees and teaching agro technique and increase of food production in the rural areas. I have visited 42 localities over the years and what we do goes against the international agenda. We are not an NGO nor are we registered with the government. We have very little funding but we do what we can to teach others to care and respect our Great Mother Earth. She has made Her great Power known to this country and I hope and pray that this great tragedy will finally change the way Haitians and the powers-that-be have destroyed her for survival and greed. Haitians cannot continue to rape this country of trees and natural resources if they wish to survive this next generation.

Today is the 11th day since the quake and I finally received a money transfer from Trees for Life for food and gas and we are able to give food to 16 people. We drove to Petionville and saw some bags of rice in the areas where people are camping in the park. NO ONE who lives in small home will sleep inside. We have had two tremors today and people are still traumatized and very afraid. A young girl with an injured and bleeding foot asked for money. She was alone and very disoriented. We see the outside markets are now selling their goods and food but very few are buying for lack of money. My friend who has a small market with a Western Union station says he has no business but maybe 200 people waiting to receive transfers. These people are lucky to have loved ones to send money. Millions do not have outside support of any kind and must depend on relief aid, which I have not seen in this part of city. We see very few cars in the streets and we did not see any official cars or aid workers or response teams or police.

I was told by a friend today who witnessed the mob justice of an armed robber. He was arrested by two police and then turned over to the crowd. They beat him and then burned him til nothing was left but his bones. I have heard a few accounts of police shooting innocent people, including a 15 year old girl who was in a market. The UN trained and armed police seem to have never heard of human rights or been trained to handle any kind of disaster situation. But they do know how to shoot their new guns and proudly wear their uniforms.

I visited the offices of a magazine that is hosting some French journalists but I felt no desire to speak to anyone. I do know some of what is really happening here is being reported but I suspect that countries like France, the US and European Union would not want it reported how unorganized and inhumane the rescue and response has been….or not been. There will be the standard excuses and much talk from government officials as to the lack of infrastructure and the fear of violence while more suffer from lack of medical care and food. I still wonder how all these millions of dollars pledged to this country will be used and who will be spending it and where. Haiti does not need any more vultures to pick at the bones of the poor, Haiti needs sincere benevolent assistance with no hidden agenda of opportunist greed. 

I cannot see the future today, I cannot feel any certainty that more lives will be saved and survivors will have homes and means to continue living but I do see a real opportunity to transform this country. I only hope that this catastrophe has finally broken and exposed a system that has held millions in poverty for a century.


Today is Saturday the 12th day after the quake and I stood in a Western Union line for 4 hours to receive the money my daughter sent so we can get more food and gas. We are the only people who will use our truck to give rides and buy food in the markets.

Yesterday someone brought (not an agency) several dozen eggs and today a few bags of rice to the mountain where I am, but not enough for all the people who need food.

We expect more money transfers from friends and family to give more help next week. And because of this we will be OK for however long the funds are there. I only hope more assistance will reach this area. My feeling today is that we will have to go to the UN outposts or the Embassy soon and ask for tents and food. I do not think anyone will come here. 

I got a phone call at 5:00 AM from a friend who told me a friend of ours died in a collapsed house in Delmas. Her family in the states does not know yet as of this morning because of the busy telephone networks it is hard to get thru. He body was bulldozed and put in a mass grave or burned somewhere.

I have been told by friends who have been witnessing the bulldozing of bodies and the dumping in mass graves or being taken outside the city and burned. These actions are all carried out by government directives, which so far is the only real response visible to us. It seems that this is all they seem capable of doing for their population. Bulldozing and digging mass graves. Maybe I am being too cynical, but my I finally broke down and cried for all those still suffering so needlessly. There is help here and not only have Haitians died and been displaced, but people from all over the world have been living here for several years have died and been injured. The delay in response sort of seems like a kind of torture when you hear on the news that so much is here but being controlled.

I spoke to my very good friend Jane Wynne tonight. Her Mother-in-law died today in a nursing home and the nuns have no way to take care of the body nor are there any morgues to receive the body so Jane had to go in her small jeep and carry her mother-in-law’s body to Kenscoff mountain where she will bury her on her land in the mountains tomorrow. Jane also told me there is no sign of help with food or shelter where she is, so like me she will do what she can to ask for food and help. Our problem is we have no idea where to go for help, yet. I have seen UN personal on Boutillier fixing communication towers and they could not tell me anywhere to go.

She also told me that she passed the parks in Petionville today and they were finally trying to distribute food but the crowds were unmanageable. A friend who lives in Petionville said the organization giving out food is a private one and not part of the International team for assistance. He said they have been giving food to the people camping in the part for a few days but there is no organized system and fighting for food is happening now.


Today is the 13th day after the quake and we still felt two slight tremors. Some people I know with no damage to their homes are returning. Some friends came up to visit today and have no home any longer. We talked about how this is a great tragedy but the system must and will change because we are now witnessing the total inept way the government is not giving the help to the people.

I live in a house in Vivy Michel with my friend Neil and his family. He came to see us today on the mountain and he is the first person I have talked to who was downtown and at the General Hospital the night of the earthquake. His wife’s aunt was leg injured and in downtown and was taken to GH by family. So he had to spend the night outside the hospital waiting for her to get treated. What he then told me was very gruesome but I feel like people have to know how the Haitian government Hospital doctors treated these disaster victims. My friend told me he saw so many people coming to the hospital and these are the very poor and also in the area of the greatest devastation so I will say the doctors were totally unprepared and overwhelmed. Most of the victims had severe limb damage or had lost an arm, leg or hand and were carrying their severed limbs in some hope they could be re attached. But the most horrific scene he describes is that the doctors started amputating damaged and gangrene limbs of these people every 15 minutes or so with NO anesthesia and then gave the patients a prescription and sends them away with family or friends if they have any with them. The ones that don’t are laid in the corridors or even outside the hospital on the ground to recover. The scene is so surreal that he describes to me and I just cover my mouth and can’t speak.

I just cannot imagine that this is a government that the UN insists should be in charge and given support to take care of its citizens when it has been so inept for so many years. It was this government that allowed the poor people to build unsafe structures on mountainsides surrounding the city.


Today is the 14th day after the quake and I finally could reach a few friends when the circuits are not busy. I will probably have to go visit one of the nicer people living in the big houses here who has kindly said I could use his internet.

I received another transfer today from my daughter. She was able to raise $130 from her co workers and today we needed to replenish our food. I am so thankful for anyone who sends help. However, the dollar exchange is dropping everyday and we are paying higher prices for everything. We are still able to give food to 20 people today.

We still do not see anyone on the mountain except the teams coming to install new communication systems for the recovery effort. I met two very nice men from the U.S . sent by FEMA and who are part of this team. I ask them is there was any help they saw reaching anyone in the city and they said no. They told me the UN, the US, England and France are fighting with the Haitian government for control of distribution. One man also was in Indonesia and Katrina and said he saw the same slow response after these disasters. You would think at least we would see Red Cross teams or medical teams, or tents and ways to have some shelter and food. He said only a few private groups and local churches are giving food but the crowds are huge and hungry. He recommended I did not leave the mountain or go past Petionville even to ask for help. Then he offered me two army ration meals which we tried but only ate the deserts. Sorry I sound ungrateful but I am not in the military nor am I any where near being hungry enough to eat the salty mushy, plastic, beef stew ,yet. It was a nice gesture though even though he did make sure to ask the members of the team if they were going to eat their rations before he offered. 


It is now two weeks past the event that has shaken this country and I hope it has shaken the world to witness how a country so close the Washington D.C. and with so many relatives of Americans living here can be made to suffer because the “powers” that control the goods and money sent cannot agree on how it should be done. 

Oh yeah, we heard from a friend of ours whose brother was eligible to return to the states on the plan offered to any Haitian with citizenship in the States who can receive one family member from Haiti. Our friend’s brother wants to come back because his family in the states does not cook Haitian food and he doesn’t like the American food. Imagine that…

God Bless us…….

*” Haitians, as a people, struggle to transform this below, knowing no matter the misery, loss and suffering in time, that out of time, Nan Ginen, our safety lies - lives- wholly unformed by any storylines, (even our own), since before this 'New World's' time began." (Excerpt from Bwa Kayiman, 2007 and the case of Lovinsky Pierre Antoine.) In addition, power concedes nothing, unless it has to, and the Haitian experience with the "Mulatto" Oligarchs also reveals that the Mulatto's definition of liberty and freedom differs from that of the African-Haitian masses. Ultimately, social stratification, oppressive laws, injustice, profit-over-people rulers, organized exclusion of the masses, the impunity of the economic elite, structural elitism, the monstrosities of US/Euro ethno-centricism, (racism, Nazism, financial colonialism, neo-colonialism, ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation) and deliberate containment-in-poverty won't be eradicated unless profit-over-people VALUES are changed.”

Quote: Ezili Dantò


Today is the 15th day after the quake and still no relief sent to where we are. I know I will receive some funds today from Trees for Life and we will keep feeding people and doing what we can. 

I received a phone call today from a missionary in O’kay in the south and she told me someone from her church was trying to contact me. She told me that they are getting help from other missions and that planes were landing there with relief. She said the number of “refugees” meaning those Haitians that were from there are returning to their families but the number is so great and their families don’t have anything either. 

I heard the plan announced on the radio, and this is a government response, that there are specific stations that will bus people back to their home province with 500gds($15.00) and some food. That amount of money will buy food for 4 people for one or two days. There are now some clinics and temporary medical facilities to treat people. And the Red Cross is mentioned, too. It appears the government is trying to get as many people to leave the city.

We have not heard that that the tons of goods that have been flown into the International airport are being distributed yet. Mostly local organizations are giving some help but the international teams are not presently organized or giving help as of today. The government response is slow and incredibly ineffective. There is still a good supply of goods and food in the markets in our area but people have no money to purchase.

I have friends who are giving help on their own anyway they can. One college student I know is organizing a way to get clothes to some of the people living in the parks in Petionville. So many Haitians I know are helping everywhere with frustration because of such a lack of organized ways of delivery of relief. People are calling me to find out how they can volunteer or get some kind of jobs with the relief teams but there is no central location for these teams, yet or any information given on the radio.

We have heard that an area called Leogone is 90% destroyed and no help there yet.


We are very lucky to have a big cistern for our use for water to wash etc, but no free drinking water or food has arrived on Boutillier as of today……

My brother just called me and said that Trees for Life has just wired a substantial donation to our account and we will be able to help many others now……Thank you God and thank you to the generous donor.

We just spoke to the local authority for the area damaged on Boutillier and he gave a list of families we will be helping.

Today is the 16th day after the earthquake and we are listening to the radio of people being interviewed by local journalists still crying for food and water. The slums are reporting that they heve received food from some local agencies but now they have no water. Jacmel people are demonstrating today because they have received no help, yet. Jacmel is about 3 hours drive from PAP. If the roads are not passable, we see many helicopters that could drop supplies but we have heard that the UN has blocked the Americans from doing this. Fritz’s nephew told me he went downtown yesterday and did not see so many people as many have been evacuated but he said the smell was so bad he could not be there long.

My friend Rosmond called this morning to tell us her 15 year old son died in the quake while in his school on Delmas and she was in so much pain from her loss. So many people, so many people have lost so much and I can feel the pain and anguish of those whose pain is intensified by the lack of basic human needs such as food, water, and shelter. And we all know how many cargo planes have landed since the quake and how it is mostly all still held in the airport and UN compound. I truly do not understand . My only guess is that the Haitian government believes that there are countries such as the U.S., France, Canada are trying to install themselves here to continue to illegally remove the resources here. Anyone can Google” resources of Haiti” and learn about the two Canadian oil companies here that have already drilled for oil by the border and how much uranium and irridium to make bombs has been removed by the U.S. All this documented by Haitian Lawyers Leaders Network.

I am sure there is very little news coverage now on CNN, etc. I have not seen TV for weeks but I imagine the story of Haiti’s disaster is now old news. But believe me the real story of Haiti’s recovery is just beginning……..basketball in the street and ask them if they had eaten today. All shook their heads “no”….God Bless us.


Today is the 16th day since the earthquake and I have a list of all the people living in the different zones on Boutiller mountain. I know a man living in the big houses who has a business and came to tell me I could go with him tomorrow to the UN compound next to the airport and request assistance for food, water and tents in the name of Trees for Life Haiti. Since we have an organization we were told this is the only way that help is reaching people so we will go thru the disaster zones and get some help up here. I have dispersed a few funds to some very needy and homeless people so far but the need is so great that we must get some aid relief up here. Since I have the official paperwork for the projects we were to implement before the quake it should make it easier to get what we need up here. I already had my laptop and all the papers from the UN with me, along with my bank books and passport. If I had left them at my house I would not be able to get them.

I met a British journalist today visiting the mountain and she told me the same thing, that there were vast amounts of goods to be given and this is how we must do it now. I am very grateful that I was here or I do not know how the people would get help. She also told me that there were doctors here that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and this is the worst scene they have encountered. She said that at the hospitals that are operating now, the foreign doctors are performing 100 amputations a day at each hospital. Those who had to wait so long for treatment have no choice but to lose their injured limbs.

I will have access to internet later today so will be checking all the messages and good wishes from friends and family. The phones seem to be working better today and I can reach some people that I have not talked to since the quake. 

Forwarded by Ezili's Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network