Francoise Terminus features in One Day in Port-au-Prince, a multimedia documentary.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (AlertNet) - Since the earthquake demolished her home, Francoise Terminus has lived with her son and grandkids in the Tapis Rouge camp on a hill above Port-au-Prince.
On a sunny day, views over the harbour are postcard perfect, save for the wrecked houses on the long slope down. When it rains, water swamps the shacks and bivouacs of this suburban tent city.
Francoise, 73, used to be a seller of fruit and vegetables. She proudly listed the produce she sold: breadfruit, avocados, plantains, bananas, white sweet potatoes, pigeon peas, chestnuts, corn.
When her husband died several years ago, she moved in with her son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren in Cap-Hatien, a port city on Haiti’s north coast.
She claims to be too old to have memories - but she remembers well.
She recalls a lonely childhood in an orphanage like it was last week. She remembers the Duvalier days of the 1950s onwards, when dictator Papa Doc’s strongmen terrorised the nation.
“I used to see people chasing other people with a machete,” she said. “I was young but I was able to understand.”
And she certainly remembers the horror of the Jan. 12 earthquake.
“I was about to go to church,” she said. “I was watching the time as I had to go to church. I was lying down and I got up, and it felt like the thing lifted me up to throw me on the floor.
“The bed was coming towards me. The table was coming towards me. I had two kids with me. They were screaming: ‘Grandma! Grandma! Jesus! Jesus!’ I did all I could to take the children outside. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t hold myself up anymore.
“I was scared, really scared. Because I knew it was bad. It was really bad. People were dying.”
The house was destroyed and they were lucky to be alive.
"The earthquake never goes away," she said. "It's still shaking people."
With the help of aid workers, the family came to Tapis Rouge camp several weeks after the quake. At least here there were portable toilets, even if the hillside setting caused problems.
“I live in a tent. We get a lot of rain. That’s why I’m in pain. The water comes underneath me, and the water comes in strongly.
“This is how we live. When my son has something, he shares it with me. I don’t work. I don’t have a husband. My husband died.”
She looked over at her 30-something son.
“I grew up without a mum, without a dad, without a grandma. I don’t have parents. I don’t have a godmother. I’m from the orphanage. My son is the only thing I have.”
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