Haiti Quake Survivor Back to Work on Relief Effort

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By Mary Lineberger

When the earthquake hit, I had just left work with my co-worker and we stopped off at her house. She went inside to get something, and when she came back out, we got in the car. I inserted the key, but hadn’t turned the ignition yet. All of the sudden the car started rocking like a ship, and she looked at me as if to say, “What are you doing to the car?” She thought I was hitting the gas and the brake at once, she told me later. I looked back at her and yelled “EARTHQUAKE!” and we opened the car doors and ran to the far side of the parking lot away from the building.

Mary Lineberger

CRS fellow Mary Lineberger. Photo by CRS staff

Seconds later, her husband came running out of the building with their 2-month-old baby. We all stood in the parking lot looking up at the building to see if it was going to fall. All around us we heard screaming and the crashing down of buildings. The falling of buildings continued for hours. We stayed there at the apartment complex and immediately pulled the mattresses out knowing that we would be sleeping outdoors for several nights.

I was able to walk back and visit my apartment later that night. Many things were toppled over and it was difficult to tell if there was any structural damage. I saw my neighbors in the courtyard—a Haitian family whose daughter had been caught in a schoolroom that collapsed. She and her teacher were the only ones to escape. She came running into my arms when I arrived home, her hair caked with crumbled cement. I told them it wasn’t safe to stay in the house, and that I would be staying down the street with my co-workers.

Every night I sleep in the courtyard of the apartment complex of my co-workers. The women with children were evacuated to the Dominican Republic by the third day. We sleep on mattresses under the stars and listen to the sounds of the city—spontaneous neighborhood camps full of people singing prayers loudly to keep their spirits up, shrieks and screams that come after every aftershock, and the occasional boom of a building that crumbles to the ground.

Mary Lineberger

A volunteer in the Dominican Republic prepares food kits for delivery to the neighboring country of Haiti. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo

Every morning we wake at dawn, take bucket baths and head to the office where we coordinate mass distribution efforts. The office is bustling with staff. Most have come back to work even though they have lost their homes and some have lost family members.

The first few days I spent a little time each day consoling my co-worker who lost his wife in a building that fell. I am amazed at the strength of my co-workers. One woman I work with was in the large supermarket that collapsed with her two boys and they escaped after 8 hours. She has been working 14-hour days alongside the rest of us since then. At night we return exhausted but spend the time to share a meal and catch up on the day.

We emptied all the apartments of food, even of those who evacuated and left things behind, and we have paid a woman to make meals for us as she is taking refuge there with her family. She dragged the oven outside from one of the apartments, and uses propane gas to make us rice and meat and potatoes.

My job is taking in all the requests from local groups for aid and all of the international offers for assistance, and streamlining them to the logistics and distribution teams. We have a massive warehouse where we are organizing the goods received and getting them out to people as expediently as possible.

Yesterday we served a camp that has formed on the city’s only golf course, where now thousands of people are taking refuge. The challenge is that we can feed people today, but the needs will continue.

Immediate food and water supplies are crucial, and shelter will continue to be a major challenge as the aftershocks continue to come. Even if a family still has a home standing, they are frightened to return to it.

My neighbors, who I saw in the courtyard of my apartment the first night, I saw again in a camp—living under a tarp with their four young children and 3-week-old baby. I told them I would see them again soon, to which they replied “si Dieu veut,” or “God willing.”

Mary Lineberger is a CRS fellow based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

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34 Responses to “Haiti Quake Survivor Back to Work on Relief Effort”

  1. Jen Says:

    Mary, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience, even as you’re so very busy. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Beth W, Says:

    God bless you, Mary. You *live* the second of the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. Please take care and get enough rest. We here in the U.S. are praying for the Haitian people and all the wonderful people assisting them at this time.

  3. Lupe Says:

    Mary, I will pray for you..thank you

  4. Nathaniel Tishman Says:

    Mary, since the moment I heard about the quake (Wednesday morning in Africa), you’ve been on mind, and I was relieved to hear from you.

    Your story is an incredible one, and the work you’re doing is even more impressive. I have to admit that my work as a Fellow at the moment feels pretty dull by comparison, although I have no doubt that you’d trade it in a second if it’d somehow erase the devastation that’s come to your adopted community, your friends, and their city.

    ‘Amazing’ is a word that seems to be overused a lot, but I can’t think of another way to describe what you and the rest of CRS/Haiti are doing at the moment. ‘Inspiring’ might be the best substitute- keep up the inspiring work- what you’re doing now truly embodies what all of us in humanitarian aid aspire to…

  5. Gae Says:

    Mary, God bless you and your co-workers in the work that you do. We will pray for you and all of the people of Haiti. Thank you for being there.

  6. Carl Thormeyer Says:

    Hang in there, Mary – so proud of you and thankful you are OK. We love you!

  7. Laura Hagg Says:

    Thank you Molly for sharing! I have posted your blog to my facebook page and telling all the great work you and CRS are doing. Thinking of you and sending you strength your way. Take care of yourself. xo

  8. Helen Mulroney Says:

    It’s so good to read your story. I have been wondering where you were when the quake hit. It helps so much knowing you were not alone. Forward my love to Anne & Brian.
    Much love,

  9. Nancy W. Says:

    Dear Mary,
    Thank you for all that you are doing. God be with you during this
    hard situation and alway.

    Take care,
    God bless

  10. J.L. Says:

    Mary, you say, “I am amazed at the strength of my co-workers.” We are amazed at the courage, strength and shared humanity of all of you and your neighbors – our neighbors, too. Thank you.

  11. simo Says:

    you are always molly for me….you are in my thoughts every single day.
    a huge hug from me and Make.
    your sis

  12. Sandra Romano Says:

    I don’t know If you’ll get a chance to read this maybe in a month or so…but I wanted to express my thanks to you for distributing meals to all these Haitian survivors…
    My hope is to read more of that and less of people asking for food and water. I considered going down there myself ..I can cook at least!… For people…but they said not to. Bless You ….I want to see Images of Haitians recieving Food & water!!!!

    Try to ask the American soldiers to try to drop in open areas where they can distribute..to the people…

  13. Scott Webb Says:

    Great Blog post Mary! I’m so glad you’re OK and so proud of the development professional you’re becoming! Hang in there, keep learning and doing the work you were meant to do in a place where it’s desperately needed.

  14. Nancy Mulroney Says:

    Hi Molly Dolly,
    You are in my thoughts daily. I am so proud of the work you are doing. Stay safe and much, much love to you. Antsy Antsy

  15. Melissa Summerfield Says:

    Molly, I want you to know you are in Leif and I’s thoughts multiple times a day. Having the chance to read your personal experience brings this home to me and even more of a reality. I have been wearing the necklace you brought home from Jordan as a reminder of you and the people of Haiti. I am making hygiene relief kits with friends, neighbors and Pilgrim congregation to send to Haiti through an other well known organization. We are hoping in a small way to make a difference. Please keep your bright smile shining and continue to be strong in the days and weeks ahead.

  16. Louise Eykholt Says:

    Mary, Thank you for sharing with us,
    and may God strengthen you and your family and friends and all the Haitian people.
    God bless you all.

  17. GerryAnne Says:

    Mary I am so inspired by your story. I wish someday to be as strong as you and come to help the people of Haiti. Thank you for all you and everyone at CRS are doing. May God bless you powerfully for your service to the Haitian people.

  18. KT Says:

    Seester, I cannot believe this is happening — I am so moved to read that you, Noodle Elf, are present for this historic disaster, are OK, and helping the country of Haiti. I love you, am so proud of you, and wish I were there to help you too. All my love,
    Kiki D.

  19. Jane and Bob Hawks Says:

    Mary, what wonderful work you are doing. Bless you for acting with courage and determination.
    Bob and Jane Hawks

  20. Bianca Says:

    Hello Mary,
    I’m a friend of Brian and Anne, your collegue that was in the car with you. Once again, there were tears in my eyes when I read your story.
    Thumbs up for your hard work and effort over there. I have a deep respect for that. If you happen to see Brian, give him a big hug from me. We know he’s needed over there, but we can’t wait to give him a live hug here in Holland.
    Continue your great work!
    Kind regard,
    Bianca, Haarlem, Netherlands

  21. Mardea M. Dekai Says:

    Mary,thanks a lot for the numerous you and your co-warkers are providind to the Haitian. may the good O’Lord blessed you all and may he also replenish all that were lost from you
    during the incidence.

    Mareda M. Dekai
    CRS liberia

  22. Christine Miller Says:

    Dear Mary,
    Thank you for your courage and your love for the people of Haiti. Our youth group is planning a fund-raiser for Haiti. “Tacos, Tees, and Tunes: Hope and Heart for Haiti” to be held on Feb. 14– the feast of love– will invite local youth to gather to pray, learn, give, eat tacos, create tee shirt designs in support of Haiti, and sing songs! I am hoping we can raise at least $1,000.00 to send to you at CRS. We will remember all of you at CRS in Haiti specially that evening. We will send you our prayers and support, so breathe deeply that night and know you are surrounded by love!

  23. Sister Trish Says:

    I cannot imagine how you are doing all you do. I am truly inspired and praying for you as well as the other helpers and the whole situation. We feel helpless and yet we are responding in ways that we can.
    Sister Trish

  24. Annie en Mink Taal Says:

    Dear Mary,

    Anne is our goddaughter and we visit this site after receiving an email from her with your information about the situation in Haiti.
    We wish you and all the personal strength in helping in this disaster.
    Give Brian our love and all the best.

    Annie en Mink Taal / Kerkdriel / Netherlands

  25. Amelia Rock Says:

    Dear Mary, I am so happy I contributed to this organization. God Bless you for your help. I wish I could help but I am too old and not in good health. God knows who to send. Thanks Angel …Amelia

  26. Kali Kurdy Says:

    Dear Molly (that is the name I knew when you lived with Jen at Gonzaga),
    I am so proud of you! Jen sent me this, and it really touched me. You are doing God’s work. I will pray for you and for all the Haitians.
    Kali Kurdy

  27. Mary Molly Says:

    Thank you all for you comments. We have an amazing team here at CRS. I am reading this from my laptop on my mattress in the courtyard, given a bit more stength after almost ten long days. Thanks for the love and keep praying for all those affected by this disaster.

  28. Ellie Seats Says:

    Thanks for the information Molly. You work is having immediate and direct impact–I hope that brings you some measure of pride among the pain you are witnessing.

  29. Sue P Says:

    We are thankful that you are safe and pray for your continued strength and support. Love from Rian & Rian’s mom.


    Mary, I’m sure that people who read this article will inmediately pray for you your co-workers and for all the people of Haiti. may God bless you abundantly.
    R. Escamilla/ Tampa,Fl. U.S.A

  31. Roman Says:

    God bless you, all the workers at CRS and every group helping, and especially the entire Haitian people.

  32. Fr. David Arseneault Says:

    I, too, was in Port-au-Prince on that fateful Tuesday, January 12, 2010 preparing to depart on Wednesday after having spent a week visiting our parish twin, St. Joseph in Lalomas near Gonaives.
    Divine Providence protected us from harm but the images of the suffering and injured will stay with us forever.
    While our group was at the airport waiting to be evacuated, a man was there holding a CRS sign.
    I spoke with him and discovered that he was there to pick up a team of medical personnel to assist in treating the injured.
    Congratulations to CRS for being one of the first agencies to be of assistance in Haiti.
    Your work and ministry are so important.
    God bless you all.
    Fr. David

  33. Kurt Jean Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. You and all many Haitians People who are traumatized are in my thoughts and prayers. Keep up the good work.
    God Bless you.

  34. Nixon SEVERE Says:

    I was not aware you were in Haiti during this tragedy. I praise all the effort with which you have overcome that. Thank you for continuing to give us your help!

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