After our productive Thursday morning at the hospital, we had instructions from our loved ones back home to get to the airport fast because a plane from New Orleans would soon arrive and carry us out of the devastated country.
Somewhat begrudgingly my Mother and I went back to our rooms to gather our things. We all loaded our cumbersome luggage into the back of the hospital’s one and only marked vehicle.
Many many hours and tense conversations later, we forfeited our wait for the mythical plane at the airport and returned to the compound. Each member of the group had spoken their limits, and it was clear my mother and I intended to return to the hospital.
The aiport itself was mad, it seemed that nothing but media were exiting the doors. Where was the aide? Where was search and rescue? Where were the Americans? It was nearing more than two whole days after the quake.
Apparently everyone at the airport had our idea to go and wait for any plane that may be able to squeeze them on. We saw the upper crust of Haiti, families with businesses in the U.S. and U.S passports. The crowd was encroaching on the singular entrance to the airport, yelling questions in desperation for even just a little information. Ironically, it was the most chaos that threatened mob violence that I’d seen thus far in Haiti.
That night at dinner I interrogated Dr. Kris about how she had spent her day. She told me how she had divided the volunteers into groups based on who could handle blood and instructed accordingly until she had a very efficient splint-making team, a vitals-checking team and so on. My eyes widened with delight. I knew Kris was going to the hospital the next day, and visions of actually being able to correct maladies seduced me into unabashed excitement.
After dinner our group pow-wowed to determine the next course of action. The only member of our group with a young child at home was understandably desperate to get home. The rest of us were more resolved to stay. Limits were re-stated by our group. Some were financial, some were philosophical. My mother had said if there were no available flights out of the Dominican Republic to the U.S. on or before Tuesday, then we’d like to be included in the more immediate exit plans.
When all had seemingly been communicated, I excused myself to make use of the wireless internet that had been re-established. It was the first time I was able to let many of my friends know that I was OK. Thank goodness for Facebook.
Not 10 minutes later did my mom come over to me to inform me that we’d be leaving at dawn the next morning. She was obviously unhappy. My heart crashed into my stomach. What? Leave? Just when we’re getting started? Just when Kris is ready to show us how to really help people? “No,” I remember saying. Everything in my body was fighting this. I felt sick.
Apparently, there were no available flights after the weekend, so the desperate one in our group booked us all on the charter flight her husband had helped organize for her. Of course later we found out there were plenty of flights after the weekend, but she wasn’t going to leave without us.
“What if I just didn’t go with you tomorrow? I mean, you can’t physically force me to go.” I felt like I was treading dangerous water. Such defiance in the face of my mother just didn’t happen, not to mention I was suggesting that I stay in a crumbling country on my own, with nothing but prayer to get me home.
My mother’s face fell. Without being specific, she told me that it would be very bad if I left the group to stay in Haiti. Her expression was chilling to say the least. I had to get away. Here we were, safe, fed and cared for in the middle of tragedy, with the bodies and minds to help, and instead of embracing the opportunity we were pissing all over it.
I made my way over to the empty dining hall where I lay my head on some couches and let the sobs and the tears have their way with me. I knew I still had a choice. Yes my mother would be furious and sick with worry if I abandoned the evacuation, but time heals everything right? I prayed furiously. Was this the moment I was supposed to leave my family like Jesus had done and called his follower to do?
Moreover I was truly scared to stay on my own. There were the other missionaries of course, but what about school? Would I be here in Haiti indefinitely? Then a new round of sobs erupted as I reminded myself that it wasn’t my job to know the answers to such questions, just to trust God.
But it didn’t feel like we were trusting God, it felt like we were bucking the clearest evidence that we were right where we were supposed to be. We had been in the safest place in all of Haiti during the earthquake, preserved therefore called.
I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I just kept crying. It seemed like a lose lose situation. Eventually I came out of the dining hall to get a drink from the soda room and crossed paths with Kris. She knew why I was upset. “Maybe I should just stay,” I said. She looked at me behind her thick glasses. “You don’t want to do that to your mom. I’m a mom, and trust me, you don’t want to do that to her,” she said.
I pretty much knew at that moment that whether I wanted to or not, whether it was God’s will or not, I was fleeing Haiti the next morning.
Pictures from the drive from the airport back to the Villa Thursday evening.