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A new book about surviving the Haiti earthquake and what really happened after. Winner of the Overseas Press Club of America's Cornelius Ryan Award. Stick around. Share your thoughts. Na pale.
With publication approaching in January, people have been asking me about the title: What exactly was The Big Truck That Went By?
It refers to three things: Haiti’s weak state before the earthquake (when even basic utilities had to be delivered by truck), the massive international response, and the quake itself. There is more about those ideas, and what connects them, in the introduction.
But credit must go where credit is due. I first heard the phrase in its full Kreyòl flower, ”gwo machin ki pase,” nine days after the earthquake, from a carpenter named Ancelot Jean. The father of six had lost his home and shop in Marché Salomon, and the eight members of his family were setting up a new home at the edge of the Champ de Mars plaza, under an electric lime green vendor’s umbrella, from the cell phone company Voilà.
At that point Haitians had mostly been referring to the disaster indirectly, or as “the event.” I asked Jean if he had heard any names for the earthquake. He answered:
"Only God can give what happened a name. But sometimes we call it ‘the big truck that went by.’ The big truck of death."
From left, 2012 Lukas Prize prize winners Daniel J. Sharfstein, Jonathan M. Katz, and Sophia Rosenfeld. Jonathan Alter, right, is chairman of the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Committee. Photo by Lisa Abitbol.
Welcome to the new tumblr for my upcoming book about Haiti, the earthquake and what’s happened since. You can stay tuned for updates about the book’s progress. You can use the comment fields, email and other buttons to share your own ideas, experiences and reflections. Or, hell, why not do both? Like it says above, stick around and share your thoughts. Na pale.
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