Few people in the United States understand how bad the recent earthquake in Haiti was as well as Lauderdale County resident William Hatcher. He was on a short-term missionary trip to the island nation when the 7.0 magnitude quake happened.
Hatcher has vivid memories of people running for their lives. He has a photograph taken through the window of the car he was riding in when the ground looked as if it would swallow his vehicle.
"I looked to my left across a vacant lot and I saw something I had never seen before; the ground was like water. And there were waves coming toward us about 2 foot tall. When it got to the car, I looked to the pavement and I said, 'God, don't let the ground open up'."
Within minutes Hatcher's vehicle was moving again and he got a panoramic view of the total destruction surrounding him.
"In the beginning, they were running and trying to sort out what was going on. And everyone was in the street. No one was in a building," Hatcher said.
Hatcher's crew then worked their way back to the mission headquarters. It took several hours to make the trip back. By then, it was dark. And with
nowhere else to turn, tens of thousands of Haitians, along with Hatcher and the mission team, took to the streets.
"There would be a lone individual come walking in front of the crowd with a candle, and they would be calling someone's name," he said. "They would be walking, looking for a loved one and we can't imagine that kind of tragedy."
But many people have never been found. Lifeless bodies lined the debris- scattered streets.
"I still remember the first one that I saw dead on the street," said Hatcher. "And then the children; that was the heartbreak. The children that were killed. They would have them laid out on streets. One mother said 'they are just sleeping'. That is how they were coping. And she lost three children there."
Well over 200,000 people died Jan. 12. Around 1.2 million people are now homeless. From the start, Hatcher said his desire was to help the people of Haiti who now need more help than ever.
In Part 2 Thursday, Hatcher talks about his plans to help the people of Haiti.