About the Author: Shamim Kazemi serves with the Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator at the U.S. Department of State.
The earth began to shake as I was stepping out my front door. Little of what I knew of Port-au-Prince remained the same 45 seconds later -- it had irreversibly changed. I lost several friends in the quake, and many more acquaintances. Many of us that survived continue to live with the painful memory of that day. It could have been any of us. "I was just lucky," we tell ourselves. We were.
As one year has passed, I want to celebrate the spirit of the Haitian people, whose warmth, resolve, and generosity, even in one of their darkest moments, taught us all a lesson in humility. I can't help but be inspired by the strength of our Haitian colleagues who immediately engaged in recovery efforts while homeless themselves and still grieving the loss of loved ones. On the surface, Haiti's political and economic history may be recounted as a series of frustrated attempts to "get it right." Few nations have grown so accustomed to this number of crises, natural or man-made. I reckon many of us would have given up a long time ago. And yet, nothing pervades Haitian society more than hope: hope that one day things will be better. "Nou pa gen chwa," the Haitian people often say, "We've got no choice, but to work for a better life."
I miss Haiti. Sure, that might sound surprising, but few places will find their way into your heart the way this country does. Haiti is a beautifully complex and culturally rich place, if one is willing to look just beyond the current chaos and misery. It is a land of extreme contrast and, above all, home to some of the most resilient and inspiring people I have met.
I returned to Haiti recently, and was struck by how much life, albeit atop the rubble, had returned to an approximation of "normal"-- as I recall it from my time living there. The road ahead, the road to recovery, is a long one, no one would disagree, and Haiti had problems long before the earthquake struck. And yet, I remain confident that as Haiti rebuilds, it is in very good hands: those of the Haitian people.
You can learn more about the international response to the Haiti earthquake and find out ways you can help here on state.gov.