The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2020

54 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL The 2010Haiti Earthquake I arrived in Haiti at dusk on Jan. 11, 2010, approxi- mately 24 hours before the country was hit by a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake whose epicenter was just outside the capital of Port- au-Prince. I was driven to the house that had been assigned to me, a lovely villa located on the side of a ravine, deposited my luggage and went to bed. (I never saw that house again because part of it slid into the ravine when the earthquake hit the next day.) On the morning of Jan. 12, I started work at the USAIDMission that was co-located with the U.S. embassy. I was introduced to my Tremblement! Carleene Dei currently serves as an assignments and career counselor to the senior leadership group of USAID’s Bureau for Human Capital and Talent Management. She was the mission director in Haiti from 2010 to 2012, overseeing the U.S. $1.3 billion multiagency response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. She also served as mission director for USAID Southern Africa (2005-2010) and as the mission director for USAID’s West Africa Regional Mission (2001-2005). The USAID mission director in Haiti at the time of the earthquake reflects on the disaster and its aftermath. BY CARL EENE DE I FEATURE colleagues, all of whomwelcomed me warmly and helped me get settled in. That afternoon, a co-worker offered to take me to the local supermarket so I could stock up on supplies. I was running late, and apologized profusely for making himwait 20 minutes while I tried to organize myself for the next day. In retrospect, my tardiness saved our lives, because the supermarket that was our destination was demolished by the quake. We were about 500 yards from the embassy when the car began to shake erratically. My first thought was: “What a terrible driver!” Then I heard the driver shouting, “Tremble- ment! Tremblement de terre.” I am fluent in French, but I had not used it in seven years, and it took my brain a moment to decipher his cries. Earthquake! Earthquake! It felt as if the car shook for minutes (I later learned that it was only 30 seconds). All around us the world was enveloped in a cloud of gray dust as cement buildings crumbled, and there was a constant thud- ding sound as houses and trees collapsed. People ran down the street screaming in terror as they tried to flee the quake. We turned around and slowly made our way back to the embassy. Stunned, I retreated to my office in the embassy that, because it was built to withstand a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, would serve as my home for the next six months. ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/VOINSVETA