Kristin Brewer, the residence director for Lesher Hall, was in Haiti at the time of the tragic earthquake with three other men from Huntingdon. The following is an interview about her endeavors before and after the catastrophic event.
What was the reason you were in Haiti?
I went with Jared Smith, Jason Lillibridge, and Father David for a trip Father David makes annually to deliver money or supplies to the twin parish church of the Most Holy Catholic Church we have in Huntingdon. The church we were working with is called St. Joseph’s and it was located in Lalomas.
Where were you when the earthquake hit?
Originally, we were only supposed to be there for one week. We flew into Port au Prince on Jan. 6 and then went to Lalomas for the remainder of the time until the 12th when we were back in Port au Prince preparing to go home. We were supposed to fly out the next day, but the earthquake hit around 5 p.m. that evening. Apparently it was a 7.3 on the Richter scale – the largest earthquake Haiti has seen in centuries. We were about 10 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, but miraculously, our building never collapsed. It swayed five feet to the right and five feet to the left, and because all of the structures in Haiti tended to be made of concrete, there were huge cracks in our building.
After the earthquake what did you do, give aid, volunteer?
We set up a triage area in a nearby park after the earthquake struck because our house had remained mostly intact and it had some basic medical supplies. Because the two hospitals in the area where we were staying collapsed, we were very lucky to have doctors helping us out, since not many of us have much knowledge past general first aid.
How massive was the devastation?
There were shortages of supplies everywhere, from gauze to Neosporin to water. You would not believe how horrible it was; we had nearly run out of supplies and still more people would come begging for help, with large gashes across their body, missing limbs, and more. It was absolutely devastating. It is very, very saddening to witness this sort of disaster and be limited in your capacity to assist.
How did you get back?
There was an enormous mob scene at the airport. We were all traveling very lightly and rationing our limited snacks and water to stay hydrated. There was no time for the officials to check our passports, so after we muscled our way through the crowd, we sat on the airstrip for 3-4 hours. We were evacuated on a U.S. Coastguard plane and then flown into the Dominican Republic, where we stayed in a hotel for a few days before we flew into Florida and then finally back home.
Did you feel as though you wanted to stay?
As much as I wanted to stay and assist everyone there, I think I am actually in a better position to help in the U.S. I am able to better organize water, food, and clothing, amongst other supplies, to send for relief.
What would you recommend the public do to help Haiti?
I encourage everyone to join Haiti Relief meetings And even though it is difficult to send supplies at the moment because the airports are so small and backed-up, I think everyone should still gather supplies to be sent at a later time. Also, if someone is looking to get involved closer to home, there are orphans from Haiti living in Pittsburgh that could use help as well.
-Sam Stroup ‘12, Juniata online journalist