On Day 1 for me in Port-au-Prince after the quake, the scope of devastation steals my breath. Then, I have to tell Haitian friends in the states that their loved ones didn't survive.
Mary Knox Merrill / The Christian Science Monitor
It’s one thing to see the pictures on television – a broken building here or there – but another to see the collective devastation. It literally makes my windpipe close. I open my mouth wide, feel my chest push out as I take it all in.
Up and down the Port-au-Prince streets, rows of buildings that were as familiar as the rooms in my house are now lumps of concrete. Parts of people’s personal lives twist in the breeze.
And it’s so arbitrary. On one block, I count six houses standing, seven collapsed. No pattern. Two streets over, there are only a few houses down. The other side of the street every other house is a shell of what it had been.
A priority is getting over to the Bel Aire area to find news about the family of a dear friend, Pulitzer Prize- winning author Edwidge Danticat. Her first cousin, Rev. Maxo Danticat, has not been heard of since the quake.
When I get to the address, there is a pile of debris on the side where I suspect the house was. I start to feel a bit queasy. I get out of the car and ask around: Has anyone seen Reverend Danticat? A group gathers. No one has seen him, his wife, or their children since the night of the quake. They didn't make it.