The day my world crumbled

May 26, 2010
Judith, age 15, lost her mother to the earthquake in Haiti in January. Today she and her fellow students support each other through their grief at one of hundreds of schools that have re-opened with UNICEF support. It is one a very few public schools in Haiti, where 90 percent of schools are private. 38,000 students and 1,300 teachers are estimated to have died in the earthquake.

On the day of the quake, Ms. Lambert, our School Director, sent us home early because she had heard that not far from our school a university teacher had been killed and there was fear of rioting. She insisted that we rush home and not linger on the streets. I was home in about 35 minutes flat, my blouse sticking to my back from the scorching heat.

Judith at the site where her home once stood. UNICEF staff followed Judith for a day, view the whole set of photos on our flickr page.
UNICEF/2010/Monier and Van den Brule
Judith at the site where her home once stood. UNICEF staff followed Judith for a day, view the whole set of photos on our flickr page.

Suddenly we were covered in dust from head to toe. I couldn't believe what was happening. My mother, who had been home tending the house, was trapped beneath the rubble and the rocks were too heavy for my father to lift by himself. Jeffson, Chrislinde and I worked frantically to help Papa remove some of the rocks with our hands but we could not move quickly enough.

That night we buried our mother. We then wandered the streets and eventually fell asleep on a street corner to the wailing of women. They too had lost their loved ones. We fell asleep that night huddled against one another on the street.

We no longer had a home and no longer had our mother. The two places where I sought refuge were gone. My entire life had crumbled before me. I cried a lot over the next few days and weeks. Sometimes I would hear my mother's voice or she came to me in my dreams. Although she is no longer here, she has given me the strength to move on. I keep her alive through my memories.

Judith, age 15, lost her mother to the earthquake in Haiti in January. Today she and her fellow students support each other through their grief at one of hundreds of schools that have re-opened with UNICEF support. It is one a very few public schools in Haiti, where 90 percent of schools are private. 38,000 students and 1,300 teachers are estimated to have died in the earthquake.

On the day of the quake, Ms. Lambert, our School Director, sent us home early because she had heard that not far from our school a university teacher had been killed and there was fear of rioting. She insisted that we rush home and not linger on the streets. I was home in about 35 minutes flat, my blouse sticking to my back from the scorching heat.

Judith at the site where her home once stood. UNICEF staff followed Judith for a day, view the whole set of photos on our flickr page.
UNICEF/2010/Monier and Van den Brule
Judith at the site where her home once stood. UNICEF staff followed Judith for a day, view the whole set of photos on our flickr page.

Suddenly we were covered in dust from head to toe. I couldn't believe what was happening. My mother, who had been home tending the house, was trapped beneath the rubble and the rocks were too heavy for my father to lift by himself. Jeffson, Chrislinde and I worked frantically to help Papa remove some of the rocks with our hands but we could not move quickly enough.

That night we buried our mother. We then wandered the streets and eventually fell asleep on a street corner to the wailing of women. They too had lost their loved ones. We fell asleep that night huddled against one another on the street.

We no longer had a home and no longer had our mother. The two places where I sought refuge were gone. My entire life had crumbled before me. I cried a lot over the next few days and weeks. Sometimes I would hear my mother's voice or she came to me in my dreams. Although she is no longer here, she has given me the strength to move on. I keep her alive through my memories.

Judith, age 15, lost her mother to the earthquake in Haiti in January. Today she and her fellow students support each other through their grief at one of hundreds of schools that have re-opened with UNICEF support. It is one of very few public schools in Haiti, where 90 percent of schools are private. 38,000 students and 1,300 teachers are estimated to have died in the earthquake.

On the day of the quake, Ms. Lambert, our School Director, sent us home early because she had heard that not far from our school a university teacher had been killed and there was fear of rioting. She insisted that we rush home and not linger on the streets. I was home in about 35 minutes flat, my blouse sticking to my back from the scorching heat.

Judith at the site where her home once stood. UNICEF staff followed Judith for a day, view the whole set of photos on our flickr page.
UNICEF/2010/Monier and Van den Brule
Judith at the site where her home once stood. UNICEF staff followed Judith for a day, view the whole set of photos on our flickr page.

Suddenly we were covered in dust from head to toe. I couldn't believe what was happening. My mother, who had been home tending the house, was trapped beneath the rubble and the rocks were too heavy for my father to lift by himself. Jeffson, Chrislinde and I worked frantically to help Papa remove some of the rocks with our hands but we could not move quickly enough.

That night we buried our mother. We then wandered the streets and eventually fell asleep on a street corner to the wailing of women. They too had lost their loved ones. We fell asleep that night huddled against one another on the street.

We no longer had a home and no longer had our mother. The two places where I sought refuge were gone. My entire life had crumbled before me. I cried a lot over the next few days and weeks. Sometimes I would hear my mother's voice or she came to me in my dreams. Although she is no longer here, she has given me the strength to move on. I keep her alive through my memories.

After the earthquake we went to stay in the countryside for five weeks. Those weeks that I was out of school were very lonely for me. My mother was everything I had in the world. I miss her so much. When I was not in school, I would be home thinking about my mother and I felt like my head would explode.

Since I came back to Port au Prince I live with 8 members of my family in a small room. My father and brother sleep on the floor and my sister, cousins and I sleep on the two beds. When it rains, our room is like a swimming pool as the plastic bags don't prevent the rain from flooding our room.

Since I lost my home, I now have to walk two hours per day to get to school each day, 6km in total. It is tiring but I know that I must continue my studies if I want to be something in life. Sometimes I want to give up but a little voice tells me to say determined, to keep going on and I am going to do this for my mother, for my family. It's my reason for living.

I love school. I feel good here with my friends. When we're in school we have to become something in life. I have many dreams, but I also want to work continue to work on my voice. I am part of a choir and we composed a song about the earthquake.

I've lost many friends here. We used to be 74 in my 7th grade class but today we are just 32. Many left to the countryside, the U.S. and Canada. Ms. Lambert, my teacher, has become a mentor to me now that my mother isn't here. She also sometimes worries that I don't eat before I come to school. She is like my mother, but she gives me something that my mother cannot give me. I can't really explain what it is, but I know it in my heart. Ms. Lambert organizes an assembly on Fridays where we share our stories and feelings about the earthquake. Here I talk about my mother and my friends share their stories. One of my classmates who is now on crutches described how her grandmother died right beside her, holding her hand. It is difficult, but we must help one another get through this together. There is no other way.