By Bruce Stambaugh
Shortly before 5 p.m. on January 12, Fritz Jeanty of Port-au-Prince, Haiti was on his way home when his car lurched from the force of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. He didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation until he saw people running and heard people praying and praising God for being saved.
Fritz headed for home via the main road, but quickly came upon even more devastating scenes. People carried injured victims. Debris and clouds of dust were everywhere.
People were screaming, crying and praying all at the same time. While attempting to get home, Fritz met his pastor, who had his car full of injured victims, on the way to a hospital. The pastor told Fritz that the church had been leveled.
In his tireless effort to reach his family, Fritz drove as fast as he could until the road was completely blocked with collapsed buildings and dead bodies. Fritz parked his car, and ran towards home, fearful of what he would find. Before he could arrive, however, a neighbor intercepted him with good news. Fritz’s family was safe.
“I started crying right away,” Fritz said. They were tears of joy and sadness. “I was happy my family was alive, but I was sad for all the dead and injured, too.”
When he arrived home, his wife, Mamie, and two young sons, Samuel, two-and-a half, and Benjamin, five months, were unhurt but scared. Their home was rendered uninhabitable. The grocery store Fritz owned and operated five miles away had been completely destroyed, too.
“You could hear crying everywhere,” Fritz said. “I was overwhelmed.”
With darkness arriving, Fritz had to wait until early the next morning to turn his attention to extended family members who lived nearby. At dawn, he went to look for his brother, who he discovered was all right. However, Mamie’s two sisters were both crushed in the rubble of their home. But her mother was alive.
The Jeanty family lived on the street outside their destroyed home for a week. Fritz said they could hardly sleep, with frequent aftershocks, mosquitoes, nothing but rubble to lie on and potential looters roaming. The only provisions they had were some rice and cooking oil Fritz had stored in an old car in his yard. They had some water in a drum container, and Fritz had to walk two miles to refill it.
With precious commodities running low, Fritz went into survival mode. He reentered their badly damaged home, and carefully retrieved important personal papers, including the boys’ passports.
Fritz went to the American embassy in Port-au-Prince and was disheartened to find a long, long line. But because both of his sons had been born in the United States, Fritz was told to go to the airport to be airlifted out of Haiti.
Early the next morning they found themselves on a transport plane, unsure of where they were going. When they landed, they were in Orlando, Florida, which was providential. Just the previous day, Fritz had obtained a key for his father-in-law’s home in Orlando in case they somehow ended up there.
But Fritz knew they could not stay there long without money. He had kept some phone numbers of persons with whom he had worked in Christian Aid Ministries, based in Berlin, with missions in Haiti. A friend of a former CAM worker helped the Jenaty family make contacts in Ohio.
Arrangements were made for Fritz and his family to ride the Pioneer Trails bus back to Holmes County. In addition, contacts with Save and Serve Thrift Store in Millersburg were established, an apartment found, and by the time Fritz and his family arrived in Berlin the next day, they had a place to stay amid the largest Amish population in the world.
Fritz and his family are permitted to stay for six months. He is filling in his time by volunteering at Save and Serve, which is taking donations to help buy food and living necessities for the family. Donations to assist Fritz and his family may be sent or delivered to Save and Serve, marked Haitian Relief, P.O. Box 128, Millersburg, OH 44654.