Small ray of hope: The Hotel Oloffson

I have spent the day staring in the most painful disbelief at the images of devastation across Port-au-Prince shown on television. The suffering this catastrophe has brought to the Haitian people is too excruciating to watch, and the estimates of the possible dead too unfathomable, so I have found myself at times irrationally refocusing my grief on other losses that are trivial in comparison—such as that of the Episcopal Cathedral of Sainte Trinité in Port-au-Prince, with its murals painted by so many of the first generation of Haitian painters. I have also found some solace in survivals—from the many people pulled from the rubble alive to smaller miracles like that of the Hotel Oloffson, damaged but still standing in the midst of its tropical garden. The Oloffson, a bit of a wedding-cake-cum Gothic-gingerbread-mansion, has been spared, and to me it seems like a little bit of hope that one can return to a Port-au-Prince one can recognize. I have thought of the Oloffson, in part, because it was the place where I stayed on my first visits to Haiti, but also because Richard Morse, its owner, twitted away for hours after the earthquake hit, offering much wanted information when there was little else. The hotel became a frame of reference for many.Christine Blanchard of New Jersey wrote in to the BBC that she “heard a lot of people are at the  Hotel Oloffson—near the center of Port-au-Prince—because it’s one of the few hotels still standing.” She’d written to BBC earlier this morning after staying up all night searching for missing family in Haiti. USA Today took note of Morse’s role in the early hours of the tragedy: 

Richard Morse, a well known-musician and the owner of the famous Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince, kept people up to date via his Twitter feed. “Just about all the lights are out in Port au Prince,” he wrote. “People are still screaming but the noise is dying as darkness sets. Lots of rumors about which buildings are toppled. The Castel Haiti behind the Oloffson is a pile of rubble. It was eight stories high.”

It is a good thing the Oloffson has survived.

For the USA Today article go to http://content.usatoday.com/communities/hotelcheckin/post/2010/01/haiti-earthquake-/1

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