World Vision worker Jhonny Celicourt, aged 37, was at his desk when Haiti’s worst earthquake for 200 years struck. Here, Jhonny tells his harrowing story.
I was working on the first floor of World Vision’s office. Suddenly I felt the building shaking. I realised it was an earthquake.
I hid under my desk and prayed to God. Things began to fall down. It was so violent, I thought I was going to die.
When it stopped, I stayed lying on the floor for a moment, surrounded by my colleagues. When I recovered a little, I phoned my wife, Florence. There was no connection. I got a colleague’s phone and that worked.
My wife was on her way to work when the quake happened. The first thing she told me was that she saw a big office complex where a friend of mine works collapse. I later found out he was killed.
About two hours later I got hold of a woman who had been staying at my house. She told me my four-year-old daughter Kemisha was sleeping. She did not even wake up. Unbelievable!
"I cried and cried"
I finally got home five hours after the earthquake. I couldn’t get there earlier because all the roads were blocked with rubble, with cars, with people searching for relatives and family. They were searching and crying in the darkness. I saw maybe 20 to 50 corpses.
About five houses had collapsed on my street. I was so anxious and worried for my daughter. I thought maybe the woman in my house was hiding what had really happened to her.
When I got to the house, it was damaged but still standing. My wife had already arrived. When I saw her, I grabbed my daughter. I took her and cried and cried.
Then my daughter said: “I want to go to New York”. I’ve no idea why she said that. She’s never been to New York. It must be a place she heard about on television.
We were all crying and couldn’t believe the destruction we’d seen.
The walls of our house were leaning in, a few things were smashed. It was too dangerous to sleep there so we joined all the people in our neighbourhood who were gathering to sleep in a tennis court across the street from where we live.
"I needed to do my work"
The next morning, the first thing I did was come into work. World Vision is a relief organisation and I knew I was going to be needed. My wife asked me to stay at home but I said I just couldn’t.
I told her I needed to go and do my work. Eventually she agreed. I said I would call. Sometimes, you could make a call and it would connect by chance.
My wife and daughter could slip into the house to cook food. They made sure they had their passports handy and some clothes and shoes packed so they were ready to evacuate if necessary.
I got into the office at 7am. There were only a few people there, but more came in later.
We took three vehicles and filled them with medication. My God, you wouldn’t believe the sights we saw. We realised it was a huge tragedy. So many houses collapsed in the street. So many people crying for help.
We had a doctor and a nurse in the car and we arrived at a park. I saw at least 200 corpses and I started to cry.
I know I’m a professional, but I cried and cried and cried. I could not stop.
We started giving out basic stuff like alcohol and bandages to treat wounds. There were so many people asking for help; we just treated the first people we came to. We returned to the office for more supplies and took them to all the hospitals.
We spent the whole day driving without eating, just drinking water, in three SUVs.
I left the last hospital at 11pm and got back to the office, then returned home. My family was waiting for me outside the house. They were very glad to see me. They went back to sleep at the tennis court. But I just could not sleep.
I spent the night walking around the neighbourhoods until 5am, when I drove back to the office.
The second day was really, really busy. People [World Vision staff] were coming into the office from around the world. I thanked God we have some help; we need some help; we could not handle this by ourselves.
It’s never crossed my mind to get out and escape, although my daughter is very traumatised. Last night she asked: “Dad, why do we have to sleep under the stars? Why can’t we sleep in the house?”
I tried to explain, and then she said, “Why don’t we sleep in New York?” She can’t seem to get New York out of her head.
We’re trying to eat less and drink less. I’ve no idea what we are going to do for food and groceries.
"We are going to make it"
But I want to stay here. I want to see my country live again and I believe my country is going to live again because I heard President Obama talking about Haiti and Mrs Clinton and people from Canada and all over the world.
They are all willing to help us. We are not alone.
I was at the airport when I saw so many planes landing, bringing aid. I thought: "Yes, we are going to make it".