How surviving the 2010 Haiti earthquake changed my life
January 09, 2020
January 09, 2020
For 18 hours, I was buried under the collapsed Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, following a magnitude 7.3 earthquake. Ten years later, I look back.
In January 12, 2010, I flew to Haiti on business for an engineering project. After a brief meeting with a partner, I went back to my hotel room to rest. I woke up in total darkness, buried under three concrete floors. My head was just a few centimetres away from a concrete slab. Trapped and in pain, I thought about my children, my family, my friends and my career. Surprisingly, I also thought about my wine cellar, which was stocked with expensive bottles I hadn’t yet enjoyed.
Little by little, one by one, the screams of others around me were fading. I thought to myself, I’m going to die.
Still, I kept a positive attitude, grateful for having led a full and happy life. Hearing mosquitos buzz around me meant that there was enough air for me to breathe, and that helped me hold on to some hope for survival. I kept yelling for help, not willing to give up any chance of rescue. Then, a miracle happened, 18 hours later.
We all deal with issues and problems every day; staying positive is a must.
Rescuers found me and pulled me out. I felt so lucky to be alive! I was rushed to the city’s airport tarmac for emergency medical treatment, where a doctor instructed others not to treat me; my injuries were too severe, and my chances of survival were slim. But somehow, a familiar face discovered me in the chaos.
A policewoman I knew from Montreal recognized me. A friend of a friend of mine, she had travelled to Port-au-Prince as part of a peacekeeping mission when the earthquake hit. Luckily, she knew I was in Haiti at the same time. And, thanks to her, I was brought back to Montreal, where I was cared for at Sacré-Cœur hospital for a month and a half.
For years, I underwent rehabilitation to help regain full use of my legs, which had been crushed in the rubble of the Montana Hotel. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my experience, my future, and my personal philosophy.
This event truly changed my life. Staying positive is important to me now, and it’s a lot easier to do than one might think. Every morning, I wake up feeling happy and optimistic.
Since joining Stantec in 2018, I’ve tried to foster positive energy within my team. I believe this approach does more than create a friendly work environment; it’s an attitude that makes me a better leader.
As a leader of an 800-person diversified team, my role is to ensure that the best resources are in the right place, so that they may truly leverage their know-how. In addition, making time to listen to my team members and working with them to find the best solutions—that’s the part of my job that I really love most.
Once I recovered from my injuries, I realized how lucky I was to be alive and to create new memories with my children, my family, and my friends. And so, in 2011, I emptied out my wine cellar! I no longer keep my good bottles for later and instead share them with friends and family. I now choose to live each day to its fullest.
Although I hope that my story will inspire others, I especially hope to achieve many more things in my life. And, as a Stantec leader, I hope that I can continue to motivate and empower my team to do their best work.
We all deal with issues and problems every day, both professionally and personally. Staying positive is a must. As a leader, it’s important to listen and to inspire. In the end, when you’ve got a positive attitude, it will bring everyone together.
After this trying event, I wrote a book, Récit d’un survivant du séisme en Haïti, and gave conferences about what I’d been through. A part of the funds went toward building an orphanage in Haiti, a place that more than 60 children now call home. I was fortunate to survive the earthquake, and I wanted to share my incredible story with others. But, it was also a way to humbly help the Haitian people affected by this tragic event.