Sara Richart is an IU senior writing her creative nonfiction honors thesis about her time in the D.R.
SANTIAGO, Dominican Republic – As I lay in bed reading last Tuesday, afternoon, a car outside was playing its music so loud my bed started to shake.
After a few seconds, I noticed my fan and closet doors were also shaking, and realized it was an earthquake. I ran to the nearest doorway.
When it was over, I went back to reading. Later, someone told me the earthquake had started in Haiti, just outside Port-au-Prince, and reports were all over CNN.
The newspapers Wednesday greeted me with images of crumbled buildings and piles of bodies. At the university, everybody asked, “Did you feel the terremoto?” We felt horrible for our
Haitian neighbors, with whom we share the island of Hispaniola.
In Spanish class our teacher reported haunting words: A Haitian girl in one of her classes asked, “Does God hate my country?” Because Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere and has been hit by several disasters in the last few years, we were forced to take her question seriously.
All over campus we saw clumps of Haitian students. Almost all were on their phones, trying to contact loved ones, and many were openly weeping.
I was sitting with four people from my group when another student approached and
asked in English if he could talk to us. We assumed he wanted to practice his language skills and excitedly asked him to sit down.
“I want to talk to you about my country,” he said.
Our carefree attitudes vanished instantly. He told us he still hadn’t heard from his mom and sister, and many of his friends hadn’t heard from their families. His story was so personal, none of us could look at each other or we would have started crying; we wanted to be strong for him.
We told him we were going to do whatever we could to help with the relief efforts. The earthquake was real, tangible, affecting everyone around us.
This weekend I volunteered at the local Red Cross. Besides making new friends, I was inspired by the outpouring of support from the locals. One man drove up with 40 trays of bottled water. Another truck pulled up filled with all kinds of canned goods. The lines to give blood took hours to get through.
It’s already been a week, but both literal and figurative wounds from the earthquake are still fresh.
I hope the world will continue to show overwhelming support for Haiti and that the girl from class will realize no one has given up on her beloved country.