Remembering Is Important: The Second Anniversary Of The Earthquake In Haiti

Remembering is important.

Today as we mark the second anniversary of the 7.0 earthquake that leveled the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas, it is important that we remember this natural disaster in which hundreds of thousands were killed, countless injured and one of the poorest countries in the world was sent deeper into poverty, if that is possible.

More than simply recalling the day, it is important that we quite literally re-member -- that we reconnect and attach ourselves again to that part of the body of humanity that was severed from the rest of the world by the initial, catastrophic event and has been continually isolated by the resultant health, economic and infrastructural devastation.

Of course there are many governments, faith organizations, relief agencies and others working hard to address the ongoing needs of the Haitian people and assist in the Herculean task of recovery. But for the vast majority of us, Haiti has been replaced in our consciousness by the subsequent natural disasters in Japan, New Zealand, Turkey and here at home, or by whatever today's news cycle presents. That is the problem. Once a disaster is off the front page, even one as colossal as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti or the 2011 tsunami in Japan, we tend to detach from it. And when we detach from it, the isolation recurs and the companionship declines. We move on, while the victims have nowhere to go. That is why remembering is so important.

Reconnecting with our sisters and brothers in Haiti is essential to the long, slow process of rebuilding their country and their lives. It is also essential to our becoming whole ourselves. This past November, the Rt. Rev. Zache Duracin, Episcopal Bishop of Haiti, visited our diocesan convention to update us on the rebuilding of his cathedral, his diocese and his homeland. While his report was sobering, his capacity for gratitude in the face of such destruction and destitution was profoundly inspiring. Referencing the prophet Ezekiel, he told us that he now knows with certainty that dry bones can come to life. Through connecting again with the victims of the 2010 earthquake, the dry bones that result from our own self-protecting isolation have come to life as well.

A year ago, the Episcopal Church mounted a church-wide effort to rebuild Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. Long an essential educational, medical, religious and cultural center in the heart of the capital city, the complex was destroyed by the quake and must be rebuilt, brick by brick. In Lent, the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, which I serve, joined the Bricks for Haiti campaign, seeking to raise the equivalent of one $10 "brick" for each person in our diocese's total average Sunday attendance. By the summer, two-thirds of our 90 congregations had collaborated to exceed this goal. As commendable as this was, perhaps the more important result was the restoring to our collective consciousness the ongoing plight of the Diocese of Haiti, the largest diocese of the Episcopal Church, and the people it serves. Through bake sales, church suppers and personal appeals, parishioners re-acquainted themselves with the realities of the Haitian people's unyielding hardship and became, once again, their sisters and brothers.

Remembering is important. It is important to those whose poverty and loss becomes too easily invisible to us, and relegates them to further isolation. And it is important to us whose abundance too often renders us equally isolated. Their future depends on our willingness to participate in it with them, as arguably does our own.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr., was ordained and consecrated as the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio in April 2004. The Diocese of Ohio consists of the 48 counties of northern Ohio, an area approximately 170 miles wide by 95 miles deep, encompassing roughly 15,000 square miles.