|Satellite image of Hurricane Matthew on the morning of October 4th, just as it was making landfall on southwest Haiti.|
Nearly one month ago, on October 4th, Category 4 Hurricane Matthew hit the southwest Haitian peninsula of Grand Anse with a vengeance. I had arrived in Jeremie, the capital of and largest town in the Grand Anse on the 25th of September to teach English at UNOGA (Universite de Nouvelle de Grand Anse) for a three week session. This was my third visit to UNOGA in the last five years.
The weekend before the storm, I started tracking it as it passed through the lower Caribbean, just north of Colombia. The path of the storm seemed to indicate that it would turn northwest toward Jamaica, then Cuba. Not being a meteorologist, I don’t know how many storms did what Matthew did: it seemed to take an almost right-hand turn and head due north, right toward Haiti.
|Map of Matthew's track, with an inset map showing Jeremie's location on the peninsula.|
As you may know from news reports and social media, Jeremie was ‘ground zero’ as the storm came ashore.
|Radar loop from Guantanamo Bay showing Hurricane Matthew's eyewall passing over the western tip of Haiti and the eastern tip of Cuba. The city of Jeremie is on the northern side of the peninsula on the bottom of the images.|
A Haitian professor, myself, and one of our students had stayed in the guest house in Jeremie to wait out the storm. I was sure the house would hold because it had stood for over a century enduring many storms in its history. Matthew, however, was its undoing. Just as the house started to collapse, the three of us managed to escape and our student had the presence of mind to get us through the brunt of the storm to a neighbor’s house where the family gave us not only shelter but dry clothes, food, beds, and comfort. I will be forever grateful to these two Haitian men who saw to my safety during the storm and my welfare for the several days following.
|The guest house before (left) and after (right) the storm. In the photo on the right, you can see the second floor had collapsed into the first floor. Large trees are snapped or uprooted. (photos by Cheryl Nichols)|
|View of the Caribbean, which was previously blocked by trees. (photo by Cheryl Nichols)|
I was able to get a ride to Port au Prince the following Sunday, very sad to leave Jeremie at a time when there were such great needs. Although I couldn’t help with the immediate rebuilding, I’ve been able through a network of family and friends, to raise money for both relief and long term redevelopment.
I am now in the north of Haiti in Gros Morne where I had planned to come for three weeks following my time in Jeremie. I am still reflecting on all that has happened to so many people that I have come to know and love over the last five years. I was grateful to have been part of this tragedy, to be a presence so that Haitians know they are not forgotten, and that a wider world cares about and wants to help them in an enduring way.
If you would like to support the recovery efforts, a couple "low overhead" charitable groups that I recommend and support are:
Catholic Relief Services
|Cheryl teaching English in Haiti.|