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HAITI DIARY/ 16. This is how the earthquake changed our lives

Fiammetta Cappellini comments on the two year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti that shattered so many lives and on the ongoing process of rebuilding, both physical and emotional.

Haiti after the earthquake  (Infophoto) Haiti after the earthquake (Infophoto)

Yesterday we attended the ceremony of commemoration of the two year anniversary of the earthquake, organized by an international agency that is very active in Haiti. The ceremony was focused on the reconstruction and the support given to the local community, on the real protagonists of the reconstruction and the results they achieved. While exiting, I reflected on the strange feeling of coldness that the ceremony left me with. If I had had to give it a name, I would have said that it was a ceremony for the results of the reconstruction, not the commemoration of the earthquake.

When I had almost reached the car park, I met a Haitian colleague, who works for the agency in charge of the ceremony, and who strangely preferred to stay outside instead of being in the room. I gave the usual wishes for a happy new year, but I immediately saw a sad look veil her eyes. She said: "You know, for me any new year cannot begin before January 12. Before that, there is only the memory, the pain of remembrance of my little girl dead under the rubble, of the tomb that I could not give her, and the torment of not having even a place to go to cry".

Suddenly I realized what was cold about the ceremony. It was not "our" commemoration. We who were there in Haiti, we who have our heart in this country, when we think about January 12 we do not think primarily of the reconstruction done or not done or partially done. We think of our dead, our friends (many, how many!) who are no more, the suffering that we have faced and that somehow has never ceased to accompany us. Two years have passed. 24 months. There were very few days when we did not think about it, about that moment when the earth shook and, in a handful of seconds, took away life, the people who we loved, the world we knew. Nothing has ever been the same again. We have learned to live with the suffering, to face the pain. We had to accept that the misery of life as survivors would swallow up our people. But we could not forget, and we will never be able to.

Sunday, I went to the cemetery to pray at the grave of my husband's family. The two daughters of a friend of mine are buried in the same vault. The two girls died hugging under the kitchen table, while their mother watched helplessly from the garden, without being able to save them. Their father came to our house with the small bodies in the back of his pick-up, wrapped in a sheet. "I do not have a place to bury them. There is no room in any cemetery. I do not want to bring them to a mass grave; they are my girls! Help me please". I still remember the trip in the pick-up with that light load. As I remember the father's eyes.