Haiti earthquake diary: Can I do justice to Haiti's tragedy?

Five young women stand outside an Port-au-Prince industrial park, waiting to start work, and talk about the challenges of daily life.

Wednesday, Jan. 27

A handful of people in blue T-shirts stand outside Pacific SA in the Industrial Park shortly after 7 a.m. They’re late to work, not allowed in until the manager shows up. They’ll be docked for pay today and a single day’s loss of income before the quake was bad. Now it’s catastrophic.

Twenty-three-year old Michele Simon, says she can’t get to work any earlier. She’s lost her home, her parents, and her brother, who had his arm amputated and is still in the hospital. She has to find someone to watch her 6-year old, bathe, find something to wear , and catch a bus all by 5 a.m. in order to make it to work on time. An alarm clock isn’t going to make a difference.

This slight, shy woman is not complaining. She’s just stating the facts. There are four or five other girls clustered around her who have similar stories. I listen to them all, but find that by the last one I am just translating, not really absorbing what they are saying.

I’m not glossing over their plight, but I feel as though I can only serve as the conduit for information, and not own any of it. I felt the same way in 1991-1994, when I used to interview victims of the military regime. After a while the stories all started to sound the same and they were, but it didn’t make each person’s pain any less. It didn’t diminish the grief they were processing.

I want to be able to do justice to the injustice Haitians feel, put a new face on each one’s individual hurt, and help the outside world to understand their aches. But I question whether I have the emotional capacity to do that. I don’t want to fail them.

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