Finding Marc’s Family: At the Border Crossing
On the road leading to the Dominican-Haitian border, there was no sign of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince less than a week ago. Trees, shrubs and palm trees filled the landscape, and every now and then there was a home. Cows grazed on patches of grass.
Marc got excited when he saw Étang Saumâtre, Haiti’s largest lake, which lies just on the Haitian side of the border. “Look, it’s the lake!” Marc said as he pointed to the right. “That means we’re getting close” to the border crossing.
Just before the border was a lone gas station where a makeshift parking lot had formed as people waited in line to buy fuel, so precious and scarce in Haiti. Small stands on the side of the road sold water and other supplies.
Marie Cherie, an old acquaintance of Marc’s who is also seeking her own relatives, began alternately clapping her hands and singing a tune. Marc just strained his neck to look out both windows, not wanting to miss anything.
The border crossing sits along the shore of Étang Saumâtre, and there passengers saw their first possible sign of the temblor. Some of the cement structures were half under water, while parts some wooden shacks had collapsed.
On the narrow road, a steady stream of pickup trucks, sedans and SUVs that had just left Haiti tried to navigate past Marc’s bus. The area teemed with buses, trucks and cars, and Marc’s bus constantly honked, trying to get by. Crowds of people gathered in pockets, while boys hawked snacks, drinks and cell phone scratch cards.
At the border crossing gate, a line of cars waited to get into Haiti. Many of them carried supplies purchased in the Dominican Republic. Soldiers carrying machine guns stopped each vehicle to ask questions.
Rachelle Sienthelie sat on some gauze-like cloth on the ground near the gate, her right leg in a cast. She was on the top floor of a building when the earthquake hit, she said, and she broke her hip. She had heard doctors in Santo Domingo would help her, and, indeed, they put her leg in a cast. Now she waited for a taxi to take her back to Haiti.
On Marc’s bus, the passengers were led off and sent to the immigration office. It was hot, crowded and chaotic. Dozens of people waited in line, and passengers asked each other what they should be doing.
After a few minutes, one of the bus employees handling the immigration process for the passengers told everyone to return to the bus. “It’s too busy in here and it’s better for everyone to get back on the bus,” she shouted in Creole