Please take a few moments to be inspired and blessed by the incredible story of Food For The Poor’s Missions and Travel Director, Leann Chong. Leann was in the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince when the 2010 earthquake hit, and spent agonizing hours buried beneath the rubble before a dramatic, miraculous rescue. This is the account of her ordeal.
“At about4:50 p.m., the earthquake struck. I knew it was an earthquake, and I tried to run outside my hotel room, but I did not make it. Instead, while I was between the bed and the armoire, the floor fell out beneath me.
I don’t remember the experience of falling. Perhaps I blacked out for awhile? I woke up in a fetal position, face down. I had no idea how much time had passed at that point. I was in complete darkness, buried under the debris.
My left arm and leg were splayed out to my side, in a somewhat comfortable position. However, my right arm and leg were pinned underneath me. I did not want to fall asleep. I don’t think I did. I wanted to be alert in case a rescue team came. I realized I was buried under the rubble, not visible to anyone.
I tried to calm myself down by breathing in and out through my nose. I told myself that no one would be coming for me that night, as we were up on a mountain, and it was going to be dark outside. It was going to be a long wait.
I must have gone into some kind of meditative state, as I was unable to keep track of time. God is so good! It was a very supernatural experience that is hard to describe.
I questioned God, to the point of being angry. Why would He allow me to die a slow, painful suffocating death? I told Him that He loves me too much to let me die this way. I made my peace with God and I prayed for a quick death, like a heart attack. I waited and waited. It never came, so there was some glimmer of hope that I would make it.
“…I prayed for a quick death, like a heart attack. I waited and waited. It never came…”
While buried, I would silently pray and sing as I did not want to jeopardize the state of my air pocket. I also thought of trivial things, like I hoped my apartment was clean. I did get sad thinking about my family, and how much I wanted to tell them that I love them. I thought of the pain they would be
going through…that was difficult to bear.
As soon as I heard banging noises or voices, I would call out by making a repeated noise with my throat. No one responded to my calls. Although I was discouraged at times for fear that no one would return to this area, I continued to praise God and remained hopeful.
Finally, I heard more voices, which were very close to my location. The man spoke English and French. I screamed out to him that I was buried in the dirt. I knew this was it! He dug in the dirt, like a dog would, to find me.
His first attempt was to pull me out (slide me out) by my left arm and leg. However, that did not work as my right side was buried deeper. He dug some more, to find out strands of my hair were also stuck. He took a very dull knife and between the two of us we cut the strands of hair that were stuck.
I could see an armoire perched above my right side, near my head. Was it protecting me from other debris falling on top of me? That is what I would like to think.
The rescuers placed me on a narrow board which they pulled from the armoire. They tied me down so I would not fall off. I then had to go through a second cave-like room through a tiny hole. I can’t remember if they put me on a door, or used the same narrow board. I was so worried about falling off the board.
I then came out of the darkness into the beautiful sunshine. Is this what Jesus
felt like on Resurrection Day? All I could say over and over again through my tears was, ‘Thank you Jesus!’
I was so grateful to be alive! I was then taken to the pool deck and placed on to a lounge chair. It was Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., 17 hours after the earthquake struck.
Thankfully, I don’t have post-traumatic stress syndrome. I never had nightmares. I truly believe the Lord protected me from situations that might have caused more emotional trauma. I left Haiti early. I did not see the destruction or dead bodies in Port-au-Prince. I never had someone die in
my arms. I never had to make a life or death decision on someone else’s behalf.
I suffered nerve damage on my right thigh, foot and arm/hand, with a 90% healing. My prayer now is,
‘Lord grant me the opportunities to share
my story so that you may be glorified, not me, but You! Reveal to me little by little Your divine purpose and plan. I know that this will all come together for good.’
A psychologist told me that we all react differently to traumatic situations. We make decisions based on past experiences, how we were brought up, our faith.
Imagine… God had been preparing me all my life for that moment. I don’t understand why certain things happen. His ways are not my ways; His thoughts are not my thoughts. Why was my life spared and so many others were not?
All I know is that He is sovereign and is in control of everything. His plans always work out for good. He is in the midst of everything. His timing is perfect.
It won’t be a moment too soon or too late when it is my time to go to my heavenly home, and no earthquake could change that.”