Past Bangor visitor recalls quake ordeal

Posted Jan. 29, 2010, at 11:47 p.m.

Editor’s Note: Last summer, Margarette Saintilver, a 26-year-old seminarian studying in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, spent two months in the Bangor area as part of her preparation to become one of the first women ordained in Haiti. She was hosted in Bangor by Dr. Ann Holland and St. John’s Episcopal Church on French Street. After the earthquake in Haiti, Saintilver’s friends in Maine waited anxiously for word of her well-being, finally hearing through a brief e-mail on Jan. 15 that she and all her classmates had survived. On Thursday, Saintilver sent the following account of her experience to Holland, who translated it from French into English:

Tuesday, Jan. 12, around 3 o’clock I was in Christian Education class with a foreign instructor by the name of Jude Harmon. The course was taught at the Saint Pierre high school, which is one of the Episcopal secondary schools of Haiti. There were seven of us seminarians in the class.

At about five minutes of 5, just a few minutes before the end of the class, we felt a strange shaking sensation. Our first instinct was to run outside. Running, Carmel [a fellow student] and I fell to the ground. We got up, but another tremor threw us down a second time.

I heard a huge noise with a cloud of dust, and it was the school crumbling. Familiar with the courtyard, Carmel and I were able to find our way toward the school soccer field. Once there, I met several of the other seminary students and others who had sought refuge on the soccer field. Looking around, I saw the disaster everywhere, the blackness coating the landscape, and the school collapsed with a sizable number of university students beneath the ruins. The Episcopal university uses some classrooms in the school in the afternoons.

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I began to cry because I had no news of my family. But about an hour later, my sister called and told me everyone was OK, so I regained some calm. I spent Tuesday night on the soccer field. We felt some aftershocks during the evening, but not as strong as the first. Listening to the radio, I learned that much of Port-au-Prince, the capital city of our country, had been destroyed by the earthquake, which registered 7.3 on the Richter scale. I stayed on the soccer field until Thursday morning.

Then my mother came and got me. I rejoined the rest of my family where they live, about 15 minutes from the seminary.

On Tuesday, January 19, 2010, I left Port-au-Prince to go to Les Cayes, where my godfather, the Rev. Colbert Estil, is priest-in-charge at the parish church of St. Sauveur des Cayes. Here, I help with activities at the church, and I will also be helping at the school, assisting in the psychological adjustment of the children to minimize their trauma as they return to school.

My family is now split in pieces, because we do not have the means to stay all together here. I am in Les Cayes. My father, my mother and two of my brothers are in Leogane, another city between here and the capital. My two sisters and another brother are still in Port-au-Prince, but we are in contact with one another, thanks to cell phones.

I give thanks and praise to God for the life which he has given to me and my family. I praise him also and give thanks for all the people in the country who are still alive. We continue to pray for the reconstruction of our country.

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