First-hand Account From Hotel Montana

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If you think back to your visits at the Hotel Montana during our trips, think about walking out on the various terraces, you might find this first-hand account of the earthquake especially gripping.  Father Tom Streit is a priest at Notre Dame.

When the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck on Tuesday, Jan. 12, Father Streit was at a meeting at Port-au-Prince’s Hotel Montana with colleagues Sarah Craig ’98 and Logan Anderson, and post-doctoral student Marie Denise Milord. The group was in the capital to attend the semi-annual partner’s meeting for the Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative, along with some 25 Haitian colleagues.

The meeting had concluded, and when the earthquake hit, “we were all on different rooftop terraces,” says Father Streit, who had been standing below another terrace but managed to step out from underneath seconds before the collapse.

“The building around us came down, and we were all thrown to the ground,” says Craig, the Haiti Program’s manager, who was on a fourth-floor balcony. “We held on to literally nothing because we were on a tile floor. The building below us just collapsed, and we could feel it going down each floor until we ended up somewhere between the first and second floors, with the rubble beneath us.”


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The four sustained only minor cuts and bruises, but one colleague “had a double fracture to his leg,” Father Streit says. “Others from the meeting were trapped in the rubble (and) were buried in the building for a few days, but were found unhurt.”

“I was thinking this was something I see on TV, not something I experience,” says Anderson, the Haiti Program’s financial manager. “Sarah, who is a former emergency first responder, went right into first aid mode. I took off my shirt and we started tearing it up into strips. We found two sticks, and I helped hold (the colleague’s) leg while Sarah splinted it.”

After helping carry injured people from the hotel and assisting with first aid, the four found a grassy spot near the hotel to rest and spend the night. “I could hear people praying and chanting,” Anderson says, “and the sound of more buildings coming down during the aftershocks. You could just hear thousands of people screaming. That will stay with me for a while.”


120 New Refugee Students at St. Therese of Boileau

During the past few weeks, we’ve had only little droplets of communication: very brief telephone calls which were disconnected after a few minutes, compressed emails which seemed to escape and reach their destination accidentally.  During the past few days the droplets have started to become a trickle.  We’re getting a little more detail.Father Kensy reports: “We presently have a total of 120 new refugee students St. Therese School, and they came to us empty-handed. Several of their parents have disappeared.  We need to make benches for them and get books and supplies for them.”

Finding space for the benches will also be a problem.  The school was already crowded, but their tradition is to share whatever they have with those in trouble.  He reports, they cannot just turn away from people seeking help.  They share whatever they have, not just their excess.

He also reports that the costs of food for the school lunch program have increased even more so they are challenged to spread less among more hungry mouths.

After 3 Weeks – Helping the Most Vulnerable

Three weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, the consequences continue to deepen the pain. People walking or on bicycles crowd the roads leaving Port au Prince; leaving the city behind, they hope there will be some food in the country.  Many cannot leave.

One friend reports that his 72 year-old aunt injured her hip when the roof crashed down during the quake.  She and her 73 year-old husband are living on the street. They hope the hip injury will heal, since they can’t walk to get medical attention.  They depend on others to share food since they can’t walk to the aid distribution centers.  When asked if they can make it, they answered, “Yes, we pray that God will help us.”   These are examples of the people your gifts are helping, the many who cannot stand in line, who cannot compete for the water and food.

In Boileau they recognize the importance of re-establishing the fragile structure of a normal schedule.  School started again last Monday. Although we are nervous, they responded that they have “tested” the building to confirm it remains strong. They report: “We now have a lot of people from the earthquake in Boileau.  They need a lot of help with food, shelter, and clothing.  We don’t have enough, but we will do the best we can.”