It’s been one year, as of 4:53pm yesterday, since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. I highly recommend Mac McClelland’s vivid dispatches from Port-au-Prince this week for Mother Jones (and her tweets and longer work as well). From them, along with Mark Murrmann’s accompanying photos, you’ll get a sense of how Haitians (and the media) marked yesterday’s anniversary, and of some of the difficulties of—and occasional humor in— daily life there.
This week (or Wednesday, to be specific) is the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake. As it turns out, there’s less media in Port-au-Prince than everyone had been expecting. There were indeed CNN cameramen on our flight, and there’s more press than on maybe any given Sunday, but it’s not exactly a circus. Our popular hotel seems half-deserted. As in, my photographer (MoJo photo editor Mark Murrmann) and I met with our new driver today, and he said many of the fixers are looking for work, calling each other, saying, Where are the reporters? Where’s the work at? Does anyone know any reporters who need drivers?
And there’s all sorts of events for us, like a soccer match played between two teams of amputees tomorrow, and the launching, finally, of some government housing projects, and junkets coordinated by what the long-embedded press agrees is a veritable army of PR consultants hired for the anniversary.
So what am I doing in Haiti? We’ll see, but possibly some follow-up on whatever happened to the aid dollars Americans pledged last year.
Even yesterday, at the ceremony held at the mass graves on the edge of the city, only one woman was prominently crying. (So many photographers crowded to take pictures of her that her friends eventually covered her face.)
Nobody knows how many thousands of bodies were dumped in these mass graves, but these dusty gravel lots are massive. They’ve set up crosses here so officials can hang wreaths on them.
Unlike many reporters, McClelland doesn’t strain to conceal her status as relatively uninformed outsider parachuting in (which is not to say this is her first reporting trip to post-earthquake Haiti). Rather, she makes the most of it: asking questions, observing, joking at her own expense. For example:
The prevalence of rich people’s development versus the total lack of it for the poor is pointed out to me again later. In response to my description of what I saw, even a wealthy person at my hotel gives me the kind of look that one might level at a particularly disappointing child. “That’s all private-sector rebuilding,” he says. “That’s to be expected.” And you cannot, and would not ever, deny that the work needs to be bigger and harder and faster. There are still a million people in tent camps.
“Still, it looks better than it did in September,” I say.
“Of course it’s better!” Sam [McClelland’s driver] says. “There’s hope. Every day, the more time that passes after the earthquake, the people have a little bit more hope.”
Liz Cox Barrett is a freelance writer and graphic designer in Kalispell, Montana. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Denver and Kalispell for 20 years.