“Jonas! Explain to us the relationship between science and history.”
While our science professor, Monsieur Alexandre, paced the class awaiting Jonas’ answer, I gazed out of our dingy, green trimmed window. I hoped my mother would allow me to go to Sabine’s house after school to see and try on the party dresses that Sabine’s older sister, Sandra, had sewn.
It was a usual day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The temperature held a steady and humid 92°F, while the sky was bluer than our Caribbean oceans or the eyes of Monsieur Paige, the older white man from Britain, who owned our school.
“The relationship..between science..and history…” Jonas paused to collect his thoughts, “okay-“
Jonas stopped and possessed the same facial expression all 16 of us now shared. Our desks were shaking all at once. At first, our class was confused as a whole, but quickly transformed into shear shock, fear then panic when the all-ready cracked, beige walls began to crumble; dropping the picture frames of Haiti’s historic revolutionaries that once hung with hope 10 seconds ago.
“Everybody, RUN!! HURRY!! The school is FALLING!!!” screamed Monsieur Alexandre. The man, who we feared for his strict enforcement of rules and regulations, showed us his fear to us at 5:21pm today, January 12th of 2010. Screams and cries flooded down the stairway, out of the building and into the street- the street which exposed a piercing and unfortunate reality that it was not just our school that was falling.
Everywhere, people around me were screaming and crying out to GOD, while the streets shook with cars. The entire city shook, swayed and then fell right before our eyes. In the near distant, straight ahead- pickup trucks and cars (accompanied by thousands of huge stones and rocks) rolled and flipped down the hill like the cartwheels my sisters and I used to do in my Grandfather’s yard- while destroying everything and everyone in the way. A woman running next to me suddenly dropped down to her knees and began to pray. When I looked back at her while running as fast as my legs could and would, I noticed a cloud of white dust covering the city.
‘Was this God’s beard?’ I seriously wondered, while all around me babies, children and adults were lying in the streets not moving, bleeding, broken, the dirtiest and screaming. ‘Well, where is he? Where’s GOD?!’ But I could not speak; I could not think. I could only keep running.
I ran until I woke up in my cousin’s guestroom. My cousin, Bianca, told me once I reached the front door, I collapsed. I had walked 13 miles down the only safest route to my nearest cousin’s home.
“I thought I died, Bianca… I thought I died.”
My cousin looked into my eyes with tears in her own. She grabbed and held my hand long and hard.
“No, Baneka. You are not dead, little cousin. You are very much Alive. God was with you.”
Vickie Dantel is a Haitian-American writer who lives in Newark.