Life just goes on. I couldn’t understand how, there. Makeshift tents bordering the roads. Sweltering heat. Total devastation. No government support. No national direction. It all just seems so hopeless. Yet, life goes on. People continue to smile. People continue to laugh. People continue to love. People continue to hope. The People continue.
Life just goes on. I don’t understand how, here. Work. School. Friends. Bills. Chores. Obligations. People continue to smile. People continue to laugh. People continue to love. People… Back in bed. Blinds closed. Tissue. Tears.
I saw her today. Words cannot express what tears held. And as I hugged her close to me, I kept apologizing for more… Not spending more time… Not having more money… Not giving more food. I wanted so much for her to know how much more I wish I could do. But as she held me close, she kept saying how this was more… Seeing me was so much more than she could have hoped for.
I got news today that my 14-year-old cousin may be coming to live with me. After nights of sleeping in the streets, her mom was able to place her in a program that will bring her to the US and out of earthquake ravished Port-Au-Prince… she was the only one young enough to send.
In an instant, I realized that my life would completely change. I immediately started making plans to teen-proof my home and my schedule. I had to buy the right foods; set funds aside for schooling and clothing; brush up on my creole; oh my goodness, I don’t have any Haitian friends I can leave her with in case of an emergency; and Oh My God… the emotions suddenly poured out of me. This girl has just experienced what my words may never be able to describe, and now she will be torn from her family, shipped to a foreign land, and forced to live with a complete stranger who barely cooks Haitian foods.
The past few days finally became too much for me to contain. Sitting in the parking lot of Costco, I cried bitterly. How tragic to be in a situation where you have to send your child away; where you can’t even allow yourself to count the cost. And how terribly sad to have to leave your parents and your siblings behind; without the luxury of protest, to lose your family after you’ve already lost your world.
In June of 2009, I visited my homeland (Haiti) for the first time in 21 years. During that time, I took a series of unpublished stills I called “Signs of Life”. Every image was of a remarkably stark scene, no one present, nothing breathing. But what I hoped to translate was that life still existed… a banana peel, an untied shoe, a half-finished bottle of soda. The point wasn’t whether someone was there, but that someone had been there and may be returning. The photos, though at first so sad and empty, for me held hope… hope that as a nation, we were not over yet… hope that there were still signs of life.
It is now January of 2010 and the world is in the aftermath of one of the most devastating earthquakes to strike my already devastated country. Through the shocked silence, my hope has not changed. My soul still longs for God to be glorified; my mind continues to plea for peace and political restoration; my heart does not cease to ache for help for the needy. And I find myself reading through the many articles and scanning the thousands of images, searching for the same thing… signs of life.