I’m sitting in the Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport. Around me are red-eyed, sweaty reporters hunched over laptops, trying to squeeze the chaos of a ruined city into words. Outside are hungry young men, circling anyone who walks in or out, offering to drive and translate. Beyond them are families perched on broken walls, waiting for food or water or news. Beyond them are thousands of people digging through the rubble of a collapsed city for the corpses of their loved ones. Beyond them is a world who glimpses this tragedy in the words we create here.
Last week an earthquake shook apart a city. In the years to come, we will hear that before it hit; water was boiling for dinner, a man was chewing sugarcane, a pastor was sweeping out a church, a couple was making love. The stories will glow with a nostalgia for the innocence they had before learning how indifferently the earth can rise up and kill.
Standing is our first act of faith. The world we create can be built and destroyed but not the earth that created us. We walk, knowing it will receive the full measure of our footsteps. But then the boiling water spills, the man chokes on his sugarcane, the pastor is crushed by a falling ceiling and the couple tossed out of bed. A week later, the earthquake has not ended but reverberates through the faces of this city. Earlier this morning, I rode a bus from Santo Domingo and through the window saw slabs of wall caved in, rusted rebar twisted like wire hangers and crowds of people staring with simmering eyes at me driving by in safety.