Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Remembering January 12th

There are certain things in my life that I remember exactly where I was when I heard them, like I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I got the call/word that each of my grandparents had died. January 12th is one of those days for me. . .

We arrived back in Knoxville around 10:30pm on January 11th. After a late night of sharing pictures and stories of my trip with Andy I got a few hours of sleep before starting my day on Tuesday taking girls to school, running errands, getting a haircut, picking the girls up from school, etc. all day thinking there would be time for sleeping and really processing my trip in the days to come (not knowing that real sleep would not happen for days or weeks). Around 5 o'clock that afternoon I was laying in bed watching TV when I got a call from my dad. He told me my uncle Tennel had called and said he saw on the news that an earthquake had hit Port-au-Prince minutes before. I was hit with immediate panic thinking that Odette was in PAP that day with her parents getting DNA testing for her adoption. Not wanting to let Taylor know what was going on I thanked my dad and said I was going to get on the computer and see if I could learn anything else. I went straight upstairs and called Kevin Rudd to see if he knew anything about the earthquake and also to see how we can find out if Odette is ok. He said while we were in Haiti Eddy had said that it was not necessary for Odette to go the city because they had already taken blood from her during one of her medical exams. I was very relieved- still worried about our friends and Odette's parents in PAP but relieved that my little girl was ok. Other than news reports throughout the evening we had no word from Haiti. All we knew at the time was a horrible earthquake hit the city and knew nothing about the rest of the country. Knowing that the orphanage is a 3 hour drive away from the city we kept assuring our girls that we were sure that everything was fine since they were so far away from the city. Going to sleep was hard that night with worry for our friends but sleep finally came a little before midnight. Then shortly after midnight I woke up & heard something, it took me a few seconds to realize that it was Andy crying loudly from the kitchen. I ran into the kitchen to find him crying and hugging Brian Lloyd. I remember just standing there looking at Brian until he finally said "The orphanage has collapsed, Atanie did not make it out, but the other girls are ok" I fell apart immediately (I am crying now as I type this) after a few minutes he looked at me and said "Odette is not at the orphanage and she went to the city with her parents and we don't know where she is or if she is ok". A minute after learning that this precious girl that I love and left in Haiti the day before had not made it out of the orphanage alive I was told that we didn't know if our daughter was alive or dead. I remember having to sit down on the kitchen stool before I fell down. During all this Abby woke up and wandered in the kitchen and Brian sweetly sent her back to bed and luckily she went. I'm surprised that we didn't wake up everyone in the house. We went upstairs to Andy's computer room and sat for a couple of hours as Brian tried over and over to get through on his phone to Haiti. Kevin was trying the same from his house. Finally Brian headed home to keep trying and we went to bed and crying and praying and sleeping for a few minutes. After a sleepless night we got a call from Brian at 5:50 telling us that Eddy's wife had a 20 second conversation with Eddy and he said that "we are ok". I held on to the hope the rest of the morning that "we" meant Odette was with him. Then at 7:00 Brian showed up on our doorstep again to tell us that Odette rode a tap-tap with her parents earlier that afternoon and she was not with Eddy. We woke up the girls for school hoping that we would seem as normal as possible. I was ok until Taylor started talking about Atanie and laughing about a video I had of her on my camera (as this point the girls knew nothing about Atanie or the orphanage). I had to leave the room quickly for a good cry. Andy took the girls to school with me and I called their teachers out in the hall to tell them what we knew so far and that we were not telling the girls in hopes that we would have good news about Odette by the time we picked them up from school. As we pulled away from school that day I called and told my dad and told him to spread the word because I couldn't say it out loud one more time. Now wanting to be alone I went to work with Andy and sat with him while he worked. Later that day he went with me to pick the girls up and we headed home to tell them what we knew. Luckily Andy was the one to finally sit them down and tell them because I had no words. He started by telling them about the orphanage and told them Atanie was gone. I have never seen them all so upset (later Abby said when I was talking about Atanie- "Atanie's dead"- I guess she did not understand at first and then the tears started up again). A few minutes later he told them what little we knew about Odette then we all just sat and cried for a long time. I think it was the hardest thing we have ever had to tell our girls. Taylor especially had a hard time , not only did she not know if her sister was ok she had just found out that a little girl she fell in love with in November was gone.

That night we had a prayer service at Powell church. I was so touched by the outpouring of blessing from our family and friends that night. It was such a hard but special night for our church family and I will never forget it. Wednesday January 13th was the longest hardest day of my life. We had another long sleepless night & got the girls up and ready for school. All of them cried not wanting to go. Taylor had a spelling bee that day that she was so excited about before but now she didn't want to go through with it. We went to the spelling bee that day and then I went home for a while. I headed to school to eat lunch with Abby & Molly and when I was signing in the office I missed a call from Kevin, I immediately called back and he answered and said "your baby is ok". The best words ever spoken! I told everyone in the office the good news and then headed to the gym where her class was to tell her then I got to go tell Abby & Molly at lunch. I spent the entire lunch period making calls and sending texts that God is good. We found out that she was ok, she was with her parents but Eddy & Ricot were not able to reach her yet.

Later we learned that she and her family started walking a couple of hours after the earthquake and finally made it to Coq Chante the following day. It still amazes me that God gave my little girl (who now complains about walking down the street) the ability to walk thru the city and up into the mountains for an entire day. Since Odette has been home she has shared over the months a lot about her experience during the earthquake. Those images and experiences are never far from her thoughts. I can't imagine what all she saw and heard in those hours following the earthquake. She said right before the earthquake she had gone with her cousin to the market to buy food and water for dinner. She said they had just arrived back at the house where they were staying when the earthquake hit. She said they didn't know what it was but they just started running until they got outside. The house right next door where her Aunt, Uncle and cousin live collapsed with them still inside. Hearing that made me realize how close we came to loosing her. She said after the earthquake her dad and brother ran to the school that her sister Monette was at to find her. Part of the building had collapsed but she was safe. Soon after they returned they made the decision to start walking home. I won't share too much on here because that will one day be her story to tell but she had shared with us that she saw too many dead bodies to count, heard screams and crying for hours, saw a few babies being born & tells of one little boy younger that her that had lost his entire family and was laying on his mom's dead body in the street crying. She saw things that I can't imagine seeing as an adult and trying to process. Please pray for her as she continues to sort through her experiences from that day and pray that the passport and citizenship process goes quickly so she can return to Haiti and have some closure so she can continue in her healing process.

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