Last week, the Deseret News team that traveled to Haiti to report on the January earthquake returned to Utah. While in Haiti they slept in tents, near a runway crowded with relief planes and in the grass with earthquake survivors. They ate MREs, typed their stories on BlackBerrys and called in on satellite phones the destruction they saw. But these minor hardships paled in comparison to the suffering they witnessed. They watched a Utah widow save the life of a 4-year-old boy who had lost his arm.
They marveled as a young Haitian bishop tended over his shell-shocked flock of hundreds. And they saw hope and promise in the face of a young mother who gave birth among the destruction. For tens of thousands of Deseret News readers, these stories, and the photos that accompanied them, brought home the crisis in Haiti.
For our journalists, the experience was life-changing. When they returned we asked each to describe a Haitian who embodied what they saw. These are their stories:
For me, the lingering face of Haiti belongs to Daniel Delva, a 27-year-old who embodied hope and humor, dreams and disappointment, resiliency and reality.
His face mirrors many of the emotions I saw borne by the people of earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince.
I spent eight days following the LDS Church-sponsored medical team as it treated injured Haitians. We often rode in vehicles driven by Daniel and learned about him through group or individual conversations.
His mother, siblings and home survived the quake. Gone was his college, where he studied accounting but eyed mechanical engineering. A returned LDS missionary, he hoped for marriage and a future family and dreamed of visiting Salt Lake City and attending BYU or BYU-Idaho.
But there were obstacles — English-proficiency tests before college admission, a letter of sponsorship before getting a U.S. visa, and the looming financial costs.
One time, he asked: "Scott, in America, how many meals do you eat a day?" I was embarrassed to answer, knowing our three is at least double that of Haiti's norm.
My last day there, I watched Daniel become a victim of brutality, as three policemen attacked him over a misunderstanding at a rural traffic stop. They shoved and punched him, pulling him out of the car. At one point, he shoved back — the threats and fisticuffs continued, and out came the pistol and handcuffs.
He later told me he had to show he would not be intimidated or they would really have taken advantage of him. Later released without a citation, he shook the hands of his accusers.
On the night we were to leave for the airport, I mentioned I hadn't had a chance to get any Haitian currency. I collect local currency when traveling, but all my transactions in Haiti had been done in American dollars, which were preferred after the quake.
Daniel pulled out a crisp 10 Goud bill — worth about a U.S. quarter.
"Remember Haiti, dear friend in gospel. Thanks for your service during this time," he wrote on the bill, dating it and signing it "Daniel D." Touched, I responded in similar fashion on U.S. currency.
Later, in a private moment before we loaded up to go, Daniel and I expressed admiration and appreciation for each other and shared a tender embrace.
I cupped his head between my hands and said as our moist eyes locked together:
"Whenever I hear of Port-au-Prince, I'll think of you — for me, Daniel, yours is the face of Haiti."
Elien Verett, he's the guy. Elien is a little 9-year-old Haitian boy. His mother died, and Elien, his father and I think one other sibling that I never met found their way to this LDS chapel in downtown Port-au-Prince. This LDS chapel was taking on everybody, members and nonmembers alike.
So they went in and they didn't have anything to sleep on, no food — nothing at all.
He was a really happy kid, just really full of life. His glass wasn't half-full — it was full. For some reason, I latched onto him right from the beginning and just thought, "You know, this is a really great kid." And I really had some kind of connection with him — I don't know what it was.
As the days progressed, we'd go in there every other day or maybe every third day. I'd see him and he would always come running, just come sprinting toward me. He was like my little shadow. I remember the first time seeing him, I thought, "Boy, I've got to photograph this little boy. He's beautiful." I remember him standing there against a metal gate there at that church and got a really nice image of him. He was just kind of gazing off into the future. I don't know what he was thinking; he spoke Creole, and so we never could talk.
He became my little sidekick. There were just tons of little children running around, and for some reason he would be my protector. He was my little bodyguard, and he would keep these kids at bay so I could work. He would shoo them away, and I'd go into this office where there was an Internet connection and I'd be editing photos and transmitting them back to Utah and the kids would all want to be coming in and looking. He'd shoo them away and keep them away and then he'd come sit right by my side and watch me as I edited.
This was a miracle to him. He'd never seen anything like this. This is a kid from the streets, he has no food and no money, his family's dirt poor, and yet they have this existence there at the church where they're getting maybe one meal a day.
On the day that I left, I knew I wasn't going to need a lot of supplies and so I knew I was going to give Elien my tent. So I handed him this nice big two- or three-man tent. His family had been living on the ground, and he took this tent from me and it was like the greatest Christmas morning that he could imagine.
Before he left, I had this little headlamp that goes around your head and you could turn it on and work with your hands and see what you're doing. I gave that to him as well. He was so grateful, and he just scampered off to show his dad. I'm sure he was just a hero to his dad for getting these things. I just felt, "If anybody deserves this tent, it's him."
As we were leaving the church about two days before we left Haiti, I knew I wasn't going to see him again. I'll never see him again, ever. I never will. I asked one of the doctors who speaks Creole to tell him that I really appreciated him and I thanked him for being such a good boy and helping me out. And he said through the interpreter to me, "I love you."
As we were driving away, I was watching him. I can still see his face. He just had this real straight lip and he had a tear in his eye, and he was sad. He was real sad. He had lost his American friend.
I'll probably never see this kid again, but for me that was the face of Haiti — strong, resilient, but he's going to make it. He's going to make it.
With a surgical mask around his neck, Michla Joseph doesn't look away as we drive through, up, over and around the most devastated neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince.
We are riding with a woman from Utah who has been involved with orphanages and young people like Michla years before the earthquake. The group anxiously awaits her several yearly visits and affectionately calls her "Mom." They make necklaces out of telephone wire, and she sells them in the U.S. for them, bringing the proceeds and other supplies on her following visit. Michla watches over her during her visits and bashfully smiles when she hugs him.
The 22-year-old "street kid" sighs heavily and rolls the sound into something I will never forget. "There is no more Haiti," Michla states, almost as if it were meant only for him to hear. We're seated in the back of a pickup, and I think of the injured pride he has for his city. "Street kids" is the term used instead of orphan, because you might know your parents but haven't had much to do with them. The small group of Michla and friends was working as our security and translators for the day. It had been two weeks since the earthquake, but those who claim the streets as home are still mourning.
We pass an old lady sitting on a street corner with her knees to her chin and her face buried. Instinctually, a friend of Michla's who is riding with us dives in his pocket and throws three coins from the truck to the curb. She struggles to rise as two passers-by pick the money up and deliver it to her. This beautiful episode of compassion shrinks and disappears as we continue driving through the broken city.
The unrelenting damage started to feel like a giant movie, playing only for me. It didn't even seem real and I could not wrap my head around what it would feel like if this was my city. Michla and the other street kids were probably seeing most of the damage for the first time, as three-hour tours through the city aren't a regular occurrence. Breaking me from my confused gaze, another friend asks me with a thick Creole accent, "Will the U.S. come and take over here, rebuild everything?" I tell him I don't know. I start to realize that Michla and his friends are witnessing the task of their generation slide in and out of view with every pile of rubble we pass. Inescapably, this earthquake and what they do next will define them one way or another. Michla is my face of Haiti for who he is now, and who he will become as his generation emerges as the problem solvers, the innovators and the compassionate caretakers who reclaim Haiti.
The face of Haiti, to me, is Harry Mardy.
Photographer Mike Terry and I found him resting alone on a mattress in a classroom at the LDS Church building in Petionville. His stoic stare reflected a person deep in thought. Clearly, something weighed on his mind that morning.
A newly called bishop, he also had his hands full with several hundred displaced earthquake victims living on the chapel grounds.
We needed Bishop Mardy's help locating the Foyer de Sion orphanage in Fontamara, a city a few miles outside Port-au-Prince. His brother Guesno Mardy runs the center. Directions or an address for the driver would have sufficed, but Bishop Mardy kindly agreed to accompany us. He took the center back seat of the Mitsubishi four-door pickup. I sat next to him.
There is no such thing as a short drive in Haiti. There may be short distances between locations, but no short drives. Vehicles, motorcycles and pedestrians choke streets into unending bottlenecks. Bishop Mardy would have to give up a chunk of his day to go with us.
On the way, he told me how his mother and sister died in the earthquake, how he retrieved their bodies and buried them.
He talked about caring for his flock. They weren't the ones sleeping outside the church he worried about. They were the ones not there who troubled him. Where were they? How were they?
Bishop Mardy also talked about what he viewed as a miracle: No rain had fallen since the earthquake. Outside another major aftershock, rain would be most disastrous with so many people living in the streets.
He spoke softly, and the contemplative expression of his furrowed brow and deep-set eyes did not change.
At the orphanage, Bishop Mardy waited patiently for us to do our jobs. He chatted with his brother Guesno, who has his own concerns. Two of his other orphanages were flattened in the quake, and in December his 3-year-old son was kidnapped and remains missing. Those things looked to me to be on Bishop Mardy's mind, too.
After the orphanage visit, two other Utahns in the truck had to be at the Port-au-Prince airport to catch a flight home. Bishop Mardy's church was not on the way, so he came along. He again waited without complaint while we dropped off the two passengers and did some work at the airport.12 comments on this story
Finally, we were able to start driving him back to Petionville, but not before going off the beaten path, including a bumpy detour around the cordoned U.S. Embassy, to first take us to the place where we were spending the night. Only he and the driver remained in the truck when it pulled out as darkness began to fall.
In all, we co-opted him for at least six, if not eight, hours that day. He graciously accepted my profuse apologies, simply saying it was no problem.
I saw Harry Mardy one more time before leaving Haiti, still deep in thought.