A Year and A Day; A Response

January 19, 2011
January 12th, 2010 marked an unforgettable event that shook the small nation of Haiti to dismal pieces and called for global attention and immediate aid. On this Tuesday at approximately 4:35 in the evening 316,000 people died, 300,000 were injured and 1,000,000 made homeless in a matter of minutes during the 7.0 earthquake that struck the nation. Every known news channel was papered with headlines and updates surrounding the catastrophe that had just struck our neighboring country and struggling companion. For months the American people and many others around the world watched the anguishing and tortured faces of children, mothers, and the helpless people of Haiti as they clung to the ruble of their remaining homes and familiarities. No security, no clean water, and no clear vision of hope, endless amounts of people lost their lives due to the 52 aftershocks following the disastrous earthquake.

A year later, in the January 17th, 2011 addition of the New Yorker, Edwina Danticat writes an article titled A Year and A Day that addresses the constant struggle millions of Haitian families and civilians battle through every day. He emphasizes on the incessant realm of death that has never left the nation a mere year later. “A year and a day” signifies the traditional belief that once a person has become deceased, their spirit floats into a river, or body of water, and rests there for a year and one day before it is seanced out of the water to be rebirthed into new life. This, the Haitians believe is the sole link that connects them to the ancestors and forefathers. Danticat points out that under these traditions, thousands upon thousands of souls were taken below the water to wait until it was their time to rise again. But what happened to their bodies? The thousands upon thousands were simply lost in the wreckage. 316,000 people lost. Imagine that.

Imagine losing the person most valuable to you in an instance due to a horrific event like the Haiti earthquake. With no warning and no goodbyes, your most cherished person is ripped from your arms and taken away from you and you have no way to commemorate their death because you have no way to find their body. You have no closure because for all you know that someone could be surviving under feet of debris while clinging on to their last breath and praying for a savior. You alone go insane searching for a sign of their life amongst the broken school buildings that your children used to attend, and the destroyed church you and your family used to worship at every Sunday. Not to mention the piercing cries for help and the ubiquitous sobbing engulfing. You cannot escape the pain and you cannot find any familiar face. Chaos is in control and you certainly are not.

Edwidge Danticat also relives the distraught pandemic of Cholera and sickness that overtook and is still overtaking the populace. Being water born, Cholera is a deadly disease that by nature targets the most innocent of victims. The article mentioned the fact the rice growers are too terrified to enter their paddies due to the highly contagious and deadly water. This hesitancy indefinitely effects their food production, limiting their already scarce food sources. Match that with filthy water, the stench of rotting bodies and the perpetuating tears of children, and you have a nation severely deprived of everyday life essentials, not even water. Imagine that.

Imagine a life without water. Of course there is the obvious lack of drinking water, but what about how you cook your food? Or what you wash your body with? Or clean your clothes? What are you going to rinse your mouth out with to get the overt taste of toothpaste cleaned away? Wait, you don't even have a toothbrush. With no water you then have no substantial food to fill that emaciated stomach belly with to stop the unending pains that rack your atrophying body. Deadly water and you are petrified to clean away the dust that is caked onto the rims of your streaming eyes for fear that you will become blind if not die. Your clothes remain the same as you wore today and the day before and the day before that and the week before that. Torn and tattered, they are no protection to you against the elements. You have no protection at all. So in the middle of that day with the blaring sun searing down onto your back, blistering through your very last chance of surviving, and all you cry out for is a drop of water, you are given a murky poison, in a rusty tin cup, and told that it is water. Water.

What happened in Haiti on January 12th, 2010 will forever be in the memories and hearts of people across the world. The brutal images we watched, as helpless stood by against our will, will never leave us. The 316,000 Haitians who were so naively arrested into a unkind end, and the remaining people who suffer with the vain memories, are honored in A Year and A Day by Edwidge Danticat. I believe the purpose of his article can be fully summarized within the last paragraph he writes.
“ My hope came not only from the possibility of their and our communal rebirth but from the extra day that would follow the close of what has certainly been a terrible year. That extra day guarantees nothing, except that it will lead us into the following year, and the one after that, and the one after that.”

We will remember you Haiti. We will remember you and your people for the next year and the next year and the next.

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