On January 12, 2010, life as we all knew it in Haiti stopped, and then, changed forever! Unexpectedly, at a little before 5:00 p.m., a 7.0 magnitude earthquake violently rocked our beloved country.
As the Lord would have it, Carole, Tom, and I were all in the same proximity, which is very unusual for that time of day. Carole, normally would have headed home (upstairs to her fourth floor apartment) and, in fact, had just said to me, “I think I’ll stay down here with you a bit longer.”
Tom was in our back office, and abruptly got up and came to the first office door (which comes into our living room) upon hearing a mighty roaring noise. I was sitting at the dining room table working and Carole was standing in the living room very close by.
The roar alerted us that something out of the ordinary was happening, but we never, in a thousand years, could have imagined what would take place next! The entire building (4 stories….and we were on the third) began to shake and sway at the same time. Carole immediately ran out the front door saying, “We have to get out of here.”
I was actually paralyzed at the dining room table. I remember holding on to the table, as it bounced and jumped all over the place. Doors were swinging open from my cabinets in the kitchen, while objects fell off the walls, and furniture fell. I recollect that I kept my eyes on Tom, still standing in the doorway. He later told us that his memory is of the walls cracking on either side of him.
Toward the end of the earthquake (which seemed like an eternity), Tom hollered to me and said, “We have to get out.” We then ran to the balcony to see buildings collapsing to the right and left of us with dust rising in large pillars. Even then, the wails, which would go on for hours – all through the night --, had begun.
When the building stopped shaking and swaying and it seemed that all was over, we all came back into the house. I headed to our bedroom to find so much clutter on the floor from the cabinets, that I could hardly walk. Water was pouring from the bathroom into that room already. I called for Tom to cut off the water…..when the unthinkable happened….the second earthquake struck. He got the water turned off, and this time, we all decided, we had to get out of the building.
I don’t remember going down all of those flights of stairs. I only remember getting into the yard and being hugged by those who had either fled our building or who happened to be in the yard at the time of the event. Bible school students who had narrowly escaped death, when walls from above fell into their classroom, walked the yard with hands raised. Everyone was calling on the name of Jesus! The looks on the faces were of horror and shock and the awful cries in the streets echoed through and through my ears….the grievous pain of humanity.
So many things will forever be imprinted on my mind, of which, one of them is seeing Osnique, (one of my Bible teachers for many years) come through our gate. His head and arms cut and bleeding, covered in white dust and pieces of cement, he wandered into the yard so dazed. His gaze was blank. Then, he began to tell us that the school he was teaching in had collapsed and somehow, he had gotten out through a little opening. He wandered off later, without me knowing, to try to find his wife and children.
That night (and for several after that), we spent in the yard, sleeping (or trying to) in the truck. We had a band of faithful with us….merchants from the street, guys from our carpentry shop, and our workers.
I remember thinking, in the very beginning, how this earthquake had equalized everyone, no matter, education or position. We had no water, but Jeanne, our friend for many years, who sells wares in front of our building every day, came and gave us three, little bags of water (from what she had been selling). I will never forget that act of kindness in the midst of so much hurt, so much confusion, and so much need.
Tom went up into the building several times during the night…..to turn the gas off, to put things back in the fridge and close the doors, and to get us a flashlight. Each time, he would go, my heart would beat so hard, afraid that yet another aftershock would hit and he wouldn’t make it back out.
And, the aftershocks!! It seemed they would never stop…that we continued to relive that awful moment over and over again!
With daybreak, the three of us headed back upstairs. I recollect walking into my living room and looking around at the disaster before me. Tom, seeing, I am sure the look of absolute unbelief and pain, just walked over and put his arms around me. We stood and hugged for a moment in the midst of our dilemma.
Not only did we have our house and offices turned upside down, but, as we began to look around, we took in the full sense of what we already knew from the yard….Carole’s apartment was gone (collapsed), the depot below, and several classrooms under them. A further investigation told us that the pillars of the cafeteria/garage/depots were so damaged that the building would have to be knocked down before it fell.
Since the earthquake, all communication had been severed. We knew our children and family members must be frantic. We ventured out late morning to see how our close friends, the Hansons, had fared and if they had internet. We found the Hansons cleaning up their house. They very graciously offered their internet and, after 17 hours of not knowing whether we were dead or alive, I made contact on FaceBook with both girls at the same time. When they saw my name come online, they both, individually, said, “Mom?” And, when I said, “Yes!” they both said, “Thank God!!” It was a very tearful time for all!
Those first days are very much a blur…..We KNOW we cleaned up every day….one little section at a time. We KNOW that we helped people…with cleaning wounds or giving food or water from the supply that we had. Tom called it the “survival phase.”
The days have turned into weeks for us now…..The 50 plus aftershocks have frayed our nerves and caused us to run from the building several times. We find that we set our clothes and shoes out at night, ready to run at the slightest trembling of the building. Loud noises cause us to jump and we are always thinking that something is moving underneath us.
Throughout this time, we have been “blown away” by the support that we have had from our children, family members, and many supporting churches and individuals. We have received supplies and funds from all over, from those we know, have been acquainted with over the years of our ministry, or from perfect strangers. The rally around the Haitian people and us has been a source of strength, encouragement, and inspiration.
As food and supplies came in from those so concerned, we have been faithful to spend our days distributing and trying to ease some of the distress in the lives of those around us. We often have a stream of workers, pastors, school children, church people, or just acquaintances coming to our gate asking for food because they just have none. This is what we call the “Caring For Phase.”
I have looked pain in the eyes, heard it with my ears, and felt it in my soul ….Jacob, who lost 3 of his 5 children as they went to get water for the family, and were victims of a landslide ...Maryse, whose 20 year old died under her house and the 16 year old lost part of his leg, and Jean, a school principal, who can’t stop hearing the cries of his students, calling out to him for help, after the school collapsed.
And now, we at EWO, as well as all Haitian people must pick up and carry on. As braces are put up in preparation to tear down the faulty building and the hanging rooms, my emotions range high. Our once functional building of 17 classrooms and 850 students has, at this point, been reduced to six that are usable. All others are damaged or in the danger range. One’s head can calculate that it must be done, but one’s heart says, “It sure is difficult to tear down what you labored to build up!”
But, TEAR DOWN, we will….and, BUILD UP, we shall!! In the midst of the rubble around us, there is one great lesson that I have learned from the Haitian people. In 38 years, through ups and downs, and this, being the worst “down” yet, I have witnessed with absolute wonder the “RESILIENCY” of the dear ones we came to minister to.
In church services since the earthquake, I have watched them sing, pray, and praise the Lord, lifting their voices to heaven, their complete hope in Him. They continue to “bounce back” – going forward in the midst of the shambles.
So, on that day, that 12th day of January in 2010, we all learned how fragile our lives really are….how dependent we are totally on the protection and safety that Jesus offers us daily….and how necessary it is to live each day to the fullest for those around us, for ourselves, and for Jesus! Thank you, Jesus, that we are alive, that you saved us, that you gave us yet another chance to serve you more!!!
Pray for us all to remain strong, to minister Jesus to the hurting, and to assist in restoring material and spiritual blessings.
If you would like to help us, please see the needs listed below:
1. We are currently in the process of raising $500,000.00 to rebuild and reconstruct that which we have lost in Port-au-Prince and Petit Goave. We have approximately 1/5 of what is needed.
2. We would like to raise $250,000.00 to assist with the rebuilding of others’ homes.
3. Updated list of needed food items and supplies:
THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS!!
-Tom and Bev Brumbley
Evangelistic World Outreach - Haiti