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.”
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.”