Haiti: A voice in the rubble

Ruth Schoeffel during a rescue mission Credits: Orlinsky/Caritas

Ruth Schoeffel during a rescue mission
Credits: Orlinsky/Caritas

Ruth Schoeffel was working for Caritas Austria in Haiti immediately after the earthquake and got involved in a rescue mission 

I went with the Caritas rescuers from Mexico and some rescuers from South Africa to the Cuban hospital one day as I wanted to write about what the hospital was doing. While we were there a dog from a German rescue team found signs of life in the rubble of the nearby cathedral. The rescue teams split up and started looking in different places.

It was the most surreal situation I had ever experienced. There was shooting nearby and there were people rooting through the rubble looking for valuable things. Then the rescuers said a woman was alive under the bricks.

I climbed up on top of the rubble to talk to her as the rescuers didn’t understand French. I also tried to help her keep calm.

When I first talked to her she was still a couple of metres down in the rubble and she was very scared and cried. It took the rescue team almost two hours to get her out of the rubble but as soon as they got her out and she could see the sky she sighed for a brief moment.

Her name was Enu Zizi. She had hurt her hip and was very dehydrated but after a week in the rubble she was in an amazingly good state of health.

Once they had carried her down the rubble, she was lying in the grass and we sat around her, holding her hand, she told all of us: “Je t’aime”. I have never seen so many tough guys like the rescuers break down. They didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. I think it was one of the most moving moments of all our lives and it was such a relief from all the sadness and the disaster that was Haiti in those days.

I feel very much connected to the country and its people after being there in January. I had never seen so much sadness but also this amazing will and hope to start up something new. I really wish that people all over the world don´t forget Haiti as there is still so much help needed.

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