Haitian Leaders in the Diocese of Brooklyn Reflect on 2010 Earthquake on Day of Remembrance

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By Jessica Easthope

In 30 seconds, an entire nation was changed forever. The aftershocks of an earthquake can last anywhere from minutes to weeks, but for Haitians across the globe, the aftershock of the 2010 earthquake has lasted 12 years.

“This has been a defining moment for Haiti and Haitians in so many ways, this earthquake happened on January 12th and we haven’t stopped shaking,” said Elsie Saint Louis, the CEO of Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP).

Wednesday, Jan. 12, on the National Day of Remembrance, leaders in the Haitian Catholic community are reflecting on how the Diocese of Brooklyn took action to help.

“There’s a strong Catholic presence, the Diocese of Brooklyn was there to help out and the church of Brooklyn is always present in the lives of Haitians especially in times of trouble,” said Father Hilaire Belizaire, director of the Haitian Apostolate in the Diocese.

But also the earthquake’s power to destroy not only government buildings and cathedrals but the country’s infrastructure and society, giving way for corruption, political violence and poverty.

“We’ve lost almost everything, we’re living in a land of lawlessness. Our kids can’t go to school, we’re kidnapping, we’re killing people, kidnapping priests and pastors and missionaries. That’s not who we are,” said Elsie.

“There is no security, no order, no peace, it’s a result of the earthquake and the corruption that has happened,” Father Hilaire said.

This past year, the world watched as tens of thousands of Haitians fled to the U.S. border in Del Rio, Texas. The COVID-19 pandemic, political violence and poverty once again seeped into their new homes in South America. Many were deported, but for those who made it through, the reverberations of the 2010 earthquake followed them to another uncertainty.

“They were no longer able to give us the same support they were giving us before so there goes your mass exodus, all of these are direct effects of the earthquake,” Elsie said.

Community leaders say today cannot be a day of remembrance because Haitians live January 12, 2010 every day.

“When we have this day of remembrance, we need to look at the entire country and look at what needs to be done,” said Father Hilaire.

As Haiti continues to recover and struggle Haitians says – behind a crumbling facade – there’s resilience and faith.