Author: Allison Starcher
With the sparkling ocean to my left, and magnificent mountains to my right, it was almost easy to forget what lay between them. As I sat beneath a blooming mango tree, I reflected on what I had seen so far on this four-day trip.
Upon my arrival, I was shocked to see a city of dirt and disorder. Food was piled up along the street, children ran barefoot through waste, and pigs and goats disposed of the garbage. The rotting smell stuck in my throat and clouds of dirt stung my eyes as the bus continued through the rest of Port Au Prince.
Honorable Mention 2010 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
As we reached the outskirts of town, farmers glanced up to watch the bus of Americans pass, and children wildly waved their hands at us. The dirt road ran alongside a river in which the people were playing, bathing, and drinking. Everyone smiled from the villages that were made of tin, sticks, sheets of fabric, and blocks of cement. We had arrived at Leogane, Haiti.
The next few days had contained many hours of service and play. I, along with the group I was with, handed out truckloads of toys and supplies to the children in Leogane Plane. We visited villages and offered a helping hand and a listening ear to anyone in need. I was surprised to find that although the people of Haiti were deprived of most necessities, they had an abundance of joy. The children laughed as if they had everything they would ever need. We held hands and sang together songs of hope.
As I continued ponder, reminiscing about the children’s songs and smiles, the ground beneath me began to shake. Suddenly, I found myself being flung into the grass. I stood to my feet, only to be thrown again. I glanced up to see the earth splitting open before me.
Immediately, our entire group gathered together, unharmed but badly shaken. The ground never completely stopped moving, and there were frequent, dangerous aftershocks. From all sides I heard hectic screaming from the villages. Then I knew that not everyone was so lucky as to survive.
Tsunami warnings came flooding in, and we quickly devised a plan of escape. We each grabbed some necessities and piled onto an open wagon, all the while keeping a close eye on the ocean. We stepped into the vehicle, praying to be spared.
We drove down the same dirt road as before, following the same river. But this ride was different. Sweet smiles were replaced with eyes filled with fear, and the joyful shouts of little children were replaced with the heart wrenching cries of grief. It was too much for me to handle. I shut my eyes to the despair around me, wondering where the love had gone.
Just then, I found it. Singing rose from the villages. I heard clapping hands and joyful praises. The love and hope of these people was bigger than the fear and death that enveloped them. The next couple days continued to bring hope. Haitians came from miles to offer their transportation, knowledge, and encouragement to us Americans, even after losing everything themselves.
At last, our trip came to an end, and I looked down at the land as we flew away. The natural beauty was breathtaking just as before, however, the devastation was even greater. Smoke from piles of burning bodies curled up toward the skies and standing buildings were a rare sight. But among the rubble, I could hear a song- a song of hope from the lips of the broken and unrelenting.