DENVER (CBS4) – One of the worst natural disasters that ever struck was a year ago on Wednesday — the earthquake in Haiti.
On Wednesday the Haitian government raised the number of dead to more than 316,000 people. More than 1 million people are still without permanent housing.
There was a mass in the Capitol of Port-au-Prince to mark the anniversary. Dignitaries came from around the world, but many in Haiti are angry and frustrated. They say efforts to rebuild the island nation are moving far too slowly.
Dan Woolley is a Colorado survivor who returned to Haiti for the anniversary. He works for the charity Compassion International. He was in the Hotel Montana when the earthquake hit and it collapsed. He was trapped with a Haitian hotel employee named Lukeson nearby and they kept each other going until help arrived. They now have been reunited back in Port-au-Prince.
The debris from Hotel Montana has been cleared, but what was once a six story hotel is now one of Haiti’s memories of that tragedy.
Woolley spoke of the Haitian man who was trapped with him nearly three days.
“We were actually trapped next to each other and were able to communicate from one elevator to another while we were trapped,” Woolley said.
Finally Woolley was pulled out after keeping himself alive through prayer and a cell phone with an application that provided medical information — and Lukeson held out his hand to Woolley.
Now, after a year, they were back together — reunited at the scene of their near death experience. Last week Woolley recalled the moment the tremor hit.
“I heard explosions of concrete breaking around me and felt the ground move underneath me and saw the walls start to ripple; and I knew it was an earthquake and tried to react,” he said.
He moved into an elevator car where he waited 65 hours for rescue. He wrote notes in a blood stained journal to his children.
“Don’t just live, change the world,” he wrote. “And Nathan, I am sorry I wasn’t there to get to know you better.”
Today Haiti is still a far cry from recovered. Devastation remains everywhere.
As for Woolley — he is back to finish a mission cut short that changed so many lives.
Woolley was with video photographer David Hames, also of Colorado Springs, when the quake hit. Hames didn’t survive. Together they were gathering material about the work of Compassion International, trying to help break the cycle of poverty in Haiti.
Find out more about their work by visiting Compassion International’s website.