In the locker of Minnesota Vikings linebacker Emmanuel Lamur sits a flag from the country of Haiti. Although raised in South Florida, Lamur is Haitian and still has family in the country, which has been dealt a double dose of disaster over the last five years.
In 2010, an earthquake devastated the country, which included a death toll that wasn’t even fully able to be properly estimated – the numbers range between 230,000 and 316,000 dead.
The country gets hit with an earthquake approximately once every month and is still attempting to rebuild from the 2010 devastation. Now they have a new disaster and death toll to deal with.
It’s going to be difficult to turn on any news program in the next couple of days without hearing about the potential devastation of Hurricane Matthew, which meteorologists are saying could be the most damaging hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Katrina a decade ago.
For Lamur, whose family lives in West Palm Beach, Fla. it’s doubly concerning because Matthew has already cut its path through Haiti, where more than 100 are confirmed dead and the search continues to find more survivors as well as casualties that will continue to make the death count climb.
Lamur returns to Haiti every offseason to do mission work and has formed a strong bond with one group in particular – the Mission of Grace orphanage. But, as would be expected following a disaster in a Third World country, getting news has been almost impossible.
“I haven’t heard anything from the orphanage yet,” Lamur said. “I’ve got to just wait. I’m staying prayed up and that’s all I can do right now.”
Lamur has dealt with three hurricanes in his lifetime in Florida, where much of the state is being evacuated or told to go to shelters to ride out the storm. At least they have that luxury. In Haiti, it’s basically every man, woman and child fending for themselves when the violent weather rolls through.
Lamur has done what he can to help in the rebuilding process, but much of that humanitarian work potentially could be obliterated by the devastation of Hurricane Matthew – a Category 4 hurricane that flattens or floods almost everything in its path.
“I don’t have control over it, but at the end of the day, it’s something you just have to prepare for and stay ready,” Lamur said. “It’s actually worse for the people out in Haiti because of the way the homes are built. There are shanty towns out there and the poor people don’t have much protection against the storms when they arrive. They’re just buildings with aluminum roofs. In the United States, most people have the opportunity to evacuate or find shelter. That isn’t always possible in Haiti.”
For whatever geographical reasons, Haiti is always in the crosshairs of natural disasters. Located above a huge fault line, not only can the earthquakes themselves hit the country, but tsunamis take place when the earthquake is centered offshore and a surge of water is created.
Combine that with being in the eye of hurricanes every summer and autumn, simply living in Haiti is dangerous. Lamur has learned a great respect for his native people because, although they don’t have any control over protecting themselves, most find a way to survive and rebuild.
“There’s something about Haiti in that they gravitate to both of them,” Lamur said. “It sucks, but these people are strong people and they find ways to live through these disasters. People get affected by it because of the living conditions and the housing. It’s sad, but at the end of the day all I can do is stay prayed up and wish that nothing bad happens to anyone.”
As for the rebuilding process, anyone who has been to New Orleans since Katrina knows that there are wards in the city that still haven’t been repaired and replaced. Certain areas remain near ghost towns and that is with the resources of the U.S. government in play. In Haiti, it’s much worse.
The country is still trying to rebuild from the 2010 earthquake devastation that delivered a direct hit and the combination of recurring earthquakes and an economy that collapsed due to the 2010 quake. It has made the rebuilding a long and arduous process.
“It’s a work in progress and they’re progressing, but it’s still really bad because the economy there is pretty hectic,” Lamur said. “They’re building through it and working through it. You wish it could be like it is here (when disaster strikes). The economy is still really bad. That’s why they need people like us to help these people out. They need a support system.”
Lamur said he will be returning to Haiti after the season, along with teammate Mackensie Alexander, who also has Haitian roots, and hopes that the government and individual citizens will do their part to help purchase the food, drinking water and supplies needed to help the ravaged country continue to try to repair itself from the devastation laid upon it by Mother Nature.
Lamur said it doesn’t take huge corporations or the government to help Haiti. Donations earmarked simply for food can do a world of good for a country whose population is largely underfed and in the deepest of poverty conditions.
“We’re just trying to help,” Lamur said. “They’re strong people who have lived through a lot down there. Whatever we can do to help and to give from the heart is what’s needed because they just don’t have the necessities to do it on their own, especially now with a hurricane coming on top of the damage done by the earthquake.”