we started receiving threatening phone calls. They would call and tell mom that they were coming and that we should be ready for when they come. Mom was worried but decided that it was nothing, they were just trying to scare us. During those months my father made a point to go to many anti-Aristide protests and was very vocal about his support for the opposition. As a former Lavalas, he was enraged that someone he fought so hard and long to bring to power could turn out to be an absolute despot, a priest turned murderer. So it was that some people in the neighborhood did not like what my father had to say.
They never came. It was an empty threat after all, or so we thought. I had just turned 15 and had witnessed my fair share of atrocities by then. During those times, being on the streets after sunset became extremely dangerous. Assassinations were becoming more frequent, the rebels were approaching the Capital, and Aristide was getting angry.
February 29th 2004 Aristide resigned. It was a loud and dark (literally-no power) night. I was excited to be in the middle of it. I did not fully understand all that his departure would entail. Things in the country got worse. Both sides went on a killing spree, people were fleeing the country, foreign nationals were being repatriated, UN troops were deployed and tires were burning. It was hell.
A few weeks later into this I heard someone banging on the front gate. I went out there to see what they wanted. 5 men with assault weapons were waiting. They looked so relaxed and simply asked me to fetch my father. I went back in and told dad that they were here for him. Mom saw them and started praying and holding me. That actually made me start to freak out. Mom and I somehow found a way to go to a neighbor’s house while my dad and my cousin dealt with the men. Thankfully my cousin recognized one of the guys as someone he played soccer with in the neighborhood near by; he managed to convince him not to hurt them. It all happened on a very sunny day, these men were walking around with submachine guns and noone could do anything. It was a close call but we all survived it. In the following week, we went to a huge rally to celebrate Aristide’s departure. I had never been allowed to go the other ones, but this time dad thought it was safe.
But it wasn’t. Nearing the end of the march, as we got close to the Presidential Palace shots were fired. We couldn’t see where they came from so everyone started running in every direction. We ran and hid in a park close by. While I was running I noticed a journalist who had gone down (I later found out that he didn’t make it). All of this happened with UN troops watching, doing nothing. Peacekeepers don’t get involved, can’t open gates or unblock roads.
We made it out unscathed. We got lucky…once again.
On June 27th 2004, father’s day in Haiti, my father was taken out of his car while at an outdoor market and was shot in the head with hundreds of people watching. The rule in Haiti was always: don’t get involved.
A few days later I was on a plane to the US with my grieving mother, my father’s body and my aunt. We applied for political asylum 5 months later. Denied. We appealed and have been toyed with by the USCIS for 8 years.
Sometimes it feels like this all happened to someone else. Sometimes I place the bodies I saw lying in the trash, by a gutter, on a street, in a sinister movie I’ve watched long ago. But then I remember my father, I feel the hole his death left in me and I have to make it my duty to never forget that all of it really happened and that it all really hurt.
On June 28th 2004 I wrote this in my diary:
“I went home with Man, and Pa wasn’t there. I wonder why this is happening.”