“L’union Fait La Force”, (In Unity there is Strength), which is what I ended my last entry with, is a statement that embodies a nation, my country Haïti. It was in mid October 2012, during my return trip back home from Haïti that I was coming down with a slight case of the flu, possibly due to a change in the weather. Whatever the case, I was feeling a little uncomfortable coming down with something. With the way I was feeling, I honestly didn’t think that I’d be able to run the NYC Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, November 4th, at the time. I lost a good 15-20 lbs because I couldn’t eat any solids being on a liquid diet. I felt demoralized. Little did I know that it would take every ounce of energy, that innate source derived from my country, in order to survive the horrific ordeal yet to come.
I reluctantly went to work the week prior because I knew I’d be off the following week leading up to the marathon. October 29th Sandy strikes NY. No one knew the severity of the storm at the time and for all intents and purposes thought it was just going to be a passing rainstorm that would eventually cease within days. To no avail, the storm persisted and raged on with reckless abandonment destroying any and everything within its path. Power outages began sprouting all over the NY area. I eventually lost power within my condominium and water began to engulf the first floor units and the surrounding streets. Downed lampposts and trees were the norm in numerous areas and flooded garages were everywhere as well. With each passing day, you heard of casualties and not only homes, but neighborhoods being wiped away too. In spite of the horrific loss of lives, tremendous atrocities, the Tri State areas’ overall state of emergency, and not to mention my declining health, I tried to remain even keel and not overreact. The hand dealt to me was pretty clear. We were in a state of emergency, gas was being rationed statewide and public transportation was a no-no, so cooler heads had to prevail and I, for one, would remain optimistic and make it through this ordeal.
I remember thinking, “Wow, just a week ago, I was in Haïti where we were trying to plant the seed to help a community and spread this paradigm to communities’ abroad.” Then, to come back home and be disappointed by the way people were acting with gas being rationed off and people not being able to get what they wanted, it kind of felt like Haïti in that regard. For one week, people felt as though their basic needs weren’t being met. I was able to hold down the fort with my willingness and dedication to make it to the finish line of the ING NYC Marathon coming that weekend and to make a difference in the lives of Haitians all over the world by bringing back the eyes of the world to a “forgotten place”. A place where the work is being done by numerous small, grassroots organizations not attempting to seize control of the moment, but rather aid and assist where needed. I also felt if I could sleep in the mountains of Tigwav, Haïti with the people, I should be able to survive the after affects of the storm and not let people with a different agenda change my mindset. This, to me, was the hardest part of the recovery efforts; letting people know that we could and would make it thru if we remained diligent in our efforts. As Americans, we take so much for granted and forget that we are so blessed with so many riches that we take advantage of and when it gets taken from us, pandemonium erupts.
I eventually made my way to the expo center at the Javitts Center in Manhattan, three days before the marathon, to pick up my race day items. This was a painful process that took about 10 hours to accomplish. It wasn’t until I managed to make it all the way back to Brooklyn on foot that I found out the marathon was indeed canceled. I, along with other runners, felt as though the run should not go on, and were overjoyed, yet sad, if one can illicit such emotion at the same time, that it didn’t’ go on. We eventually moved on and NYC eventually had to go into recovery mode.
Now, the time has come again, Sunday, November 3, 2013, one year later, to put my two feet to the pavement and take it one step at a time, to not only complete the NYC marathon, but also complete the water initiative with C2C. I welcome any and everyone to join me on my journey this weekend to accomplish these goals and I continue looking forward to working with communities’ abroad.
Since October 2012, life’s been a tumultuous road to say the least. I’ve experienced the highs of training for the 2012 and now the 2013 ING NYC Marathon to traveling back home to Haïti for the first time since my childhood; and the lows of suffering and working through the pain caused by one of the worst storms to hit NYC, Hurricane Sandy to the cancellation of the 2012 marathon. It was very painful for me, along with, thousands of runners to have the marathon cancelled, but it was something that I felt was warranted because of the fatalities and the devastation that crippled countless families. Since I was unable to complete the run, the trip to Haïti opened my eyes to a distant place that I only had fond memories of as a child.
For 2013, I managed to stay focused and kept running for 3 reasons:
1. Stay in shape, 2. Maintain my routine and lifestyle, and 3. Complete my mission, through partnering with C2C, to “Run04Haiti”. Today, I feel as though Hurricane Sandy, as major as it was, was only a minor setback to a greater goal. I feel a renewed sense of pride in my country and feel compelled to complete the marathon with my head held high, holding the flag across my back, and uttering the phrase on the Haitian Flag as I cross the finish line, “L’union Fait La Force” (With unity there is strength)!
Jonathan Eustache is a team member and marathoner of Community2Community (C2C).