Exactly one week ago today, October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 hurricane, hit the southwest Haitian peninsula of Grand Anse with a vengeance.
I had arrived in Jeremith , the largest town in the Grand Anse on the 25 of September to teach English at UNOGA (Universite de Nouvelle de Grand Anse), my third visit to UNOGA to teach for a 3-week session. The first week of class was so good, so exciting to have close to 100 1st year students taking this class as a general elective.
But as you know from news reports and social media, Jeremie was ‘ground zero’ as the storm came ashore. These trees were stripped of their leaves and many snapped in two, tin roofs were blown off the homes destroyed.
A Haitian professor, Junior Charles (left), myself, and one of our students, Reginal Marcelin (right) had stayed in the guest house in Jeremie to wait out the storm. I was sure the house would hold because it had stood for over a century enduring many storms in its history.
Matthew, however, was its undoing. Just as the house started to collapse, (here is my 2nd story bedroom now leaning against a tree), we three managed to escape. Reginal had the presence of mind to get us, through the brunt of the storm, to a neighbor’s house where the family gave us not only shelter but dry clothes, food, beds and comfort. I will be forever grateful to these two Haitian men who saw to my safety during the storm and my welfare for the several days following.
I am now in Gros Morne with Jackie and Pat where I had planned to come for three weeks following my time in Jeremie. I am still reflecting on all that has happened to so many people that I have come to know and love over the last five years. I was grateful to have been part of this tragedy, to be a presence so that Haitians know they are not forgotten, and that a wider world cares about and wants to help them in an enduring way.