ITV: Jacques Bouchard


LANGUAGE: French, translated to English      

DATE: April 15, 2010        






WHAT IS YOUR NAME AND WHAT IS THE JOB YOU DO AT MINUSTAH? My name is Jacques Bouchard, I am a Canadian Policeman since almost 20 years in Canada. I am the Chief of the Centre d’Operations Policieres, the Police Operations Centre, the POC. That was at Christopher, at the 4th floor of the Christopher Hotel, HQ. I am on mission for the UN since the 21st of June, 2009, here inHaiti.



WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE EARTHQUAKE STARTED?I was at the end of my duty time for that day, it was almost 5 o’clock and I was in the Operations Room, what we call the JOC, the Joint Operation Centre. I was at work, sending my last e-mails to finish the day and I was about to stand up to leave the room and take the vehicle to go home.



AND WHEN IT HAPPENED, WHAT DID YOU FEEL? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? WHAT DID YOU DO AFTERWARDS?Opposing to most of my friends, I immediately knew in one or two seconds, that it was an earthquake, because in Canada, I already [experienced], in 1988 an earthquake that was a lot smaller, a lot less damage, just material damage, no victims. And the sensation that I had at that moment, I immediately felt.. I immediately knew it was an earthquake. So the reactions that you have, when you don’t live it you don’t know it. Some run, some stay immobile. I was more the kind that stays fixed and wait [for] it to end. But it was of such an intensity, so strong, that the idea quickly came to try to find an exit or a way to get out of the building before the end of the shake. I got the idea to look through the window that was next to my desk, I was even thinking of maybe jumping out of the window to flee the place because I was sure that the building would come down completely. When I looked down while the trembling was still going on, I saw it was unrealizable; we were too high in the building to take the risk to jump. I would have died just because of the jump. So I went back to my desk, maybe one meter from there, and I waited and it stopped after approximately 30 or 40 seconds. It seemed 5 minutes. It finally stopped. Everything had fallen, all around us, when it was shaking, all the computers, even the tables that were stick to the ground had crashed on the floor, the TV screens that were on the walls in the room had also crashed down.


So, it was a chaos, everybody was screaming, there were maybe 12 persons in the room at that moment. The majority of people were screaming. It was chaos.



WHAT DID YOU DO? HOW DID YOU GOT DOWN FROM THE 4TH FLOOR?Well, when it stopped, we relaxed a little, others continued to be hysterical, it was more the calm, the reaction to take control of the situation, to calm down and get together. We decided, I and another Canadian Police Officer who was there in the room, with the help of the military, to assemble the ladies and the guys that work on the what we call the ‘Out Line’ – the urgency line for the country of Haiti – to take them with us, with the security guards, to be able to make a path, a way to find an exit. So we got out by the exit of the room and we went to the hall way. And there, there was dust, dust of cement, the dust was everywhere. There was the noise of some kind of alarm system that was going off. And at the end of the passage way, through the dust, and the cement that was the air, everywhere. So we were going forward like this, without really seeing more than two meters, to touch, and finally just before we arrived at the end of the hall way, it was the debris. So, around maybe 30 meters of where we were, it was totally gone, erased, but not where we were. That’s how it’s built at the Christopher – it’s made on the hill of the mountain, so it’s steep, and we were in the downside of the steep, so we were approximately 4th floor, which is much too high but more we advanced in the hall way, the more the mountain was approaching. At that point we were like at the level of the second floor. So when we saw it was impossible to move forward like that, we took the first office at the side, forced the door to open, broke the windows open with the militaries and we let the ladies and the wounded go first, and then us, we got out maybe… with all the others that were in the hall way, there were offices on the sides, approximately 25 persons in total. We made a line, a human ladder, the people downstairs were there to help and get the people we let down and they helped them to get them to the exit of the building, because there were still this scare, being scared, for me, worse than the earthquake, was to stay, during maybe 5 minutes in that building, after the earthquake. You just didn’t know if everything would come down. The earthquake was so strong and brutal, we were sure something more was about to happen, the risk of another quake. So we were inside the building, 3 or 4 persons, trying to be cold blooded, to be able to let everybody out and to not leave anybody behind. But there was the [fear] that the building would come down. So that was, for me, a lot more traumatizing. I was a lot more afraid then. than during the earthquake. Even if the earthquake for me seemed to be going on for five minutes.



WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER, WHEN YOU GOT OUT WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES, WHAT DID YOU DO? THAT MOMENT? AND THE DAYS AFTER?Especially that night and [in] the 12 hours that followed, it was to find everybody, assemble everybody. Make a Command Post with the superiors that were still alive – the superiors, management at the level of military, police and civil for the security, create a Command Post, CP, to know where our forces were, where our wounded were, the victims, and all that. Building all that, we had a lot of work to do. So in the first minutes, the first hour maybe, it was really about taking the wounded and taking them to a general point. Because there was Villa Prive, and all the other places near us, that all needed assistance to find the victims and wounded. So firstly we had to find – with the bosses, the management – the ideal places to assemble and to bring all the persons by foot and with some vehicles, because [the] roads were all blocked everywhere. We wanted to go to the Filipino base near us, where we could find 1 or 2 doctors and medical assistance for the wounded and the people that needed that.


So, the energy was all put in this, to assist the wounded and calm the people. There was the noise I remember. InPort-au-Prince, in Petionville, we are surrounded the dust of cement everywhere. There were fires everywhere in the city. And the sounds of screaming and crying people that we could hear all night, all night – that was quite a thing. And the superiors decided to concern, later at night, we spent 12 hours without sleeping, trying to find any communication. The phones maybe worked once in twenty times, we had access to only one satellite phone, as I can remember, in the first hours. And so communication was impossible. Only by radio, with the patrolling vehicles, that were somewhere else inPort-au-Prince. To establish all of that. I put people on the cars, the car radios, to listen RFI, to listen to the local radios and try to get information as much as possible. I took that information to the UNPOL commander and the military commander and we even got a Tsunami alert. We passed that message to everybody we could reach, that here was a Tsunami alert, that was for thePort-au-Princeregion and theCaribbeanregion. So, those who heard that, started to move up to Petionville, just like that. You couldn’t know, the alert could have positive or negative, one could not know if it was necessary to move, so, all this energy, we tried to establish communication, that was hard. We participated in taking care of the people, nursing them and then we tried to move everybody in the direction of the Log Base. O Portal online da CAIXA é muito bom e funciona como mais um canal de ligação do povo com o banco, o www.caixa.gov.br disponibiliza as informações de todos os serviços que a CAIXA oferece aos seus clientes como, Abertura de Conta, solicitação de Cartão de Crédito, Financiamento, Empréstimos, Poupança, os Resultados da Loteria, calculadora e muito mais. Vale lembrar que, através do portal da CAIXA os clientes tem acesso ao Internet Banking CAIXA, um serviço pelo cx econ federal banking que permite total controle e gerenciamento de sua conta corrente, sem ao menos sair de casa. Com o Internet Banking CAIXA os clientes podem olhar o Saldo, Extrato, fazer transferências online, visualizar a fatura do cartão de crédito, fazer investimentos, solicitar um cartão de crédito, realizar pagamentos, contratar empréstimos com crédito pré-aprovados e muito mais.
In 3 or 4 convoys, to tried to go direction Log Base around 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning. We didn’t know what the people’s reactions would be. The next day, we could hardly give any service or assistance to the people around us, so imagine giving service to the people in the city. It was an impossible task. Impossible and too dangerous.



I HEARD YOU ALSO SAVED SOMEONE? WAS THAT DURING THE NIGHT OR AFTERWARDS?I don’t like to say that. I didn’t [resuscitate] anybody. I didn’t really save. The only thing I have done, is what anybody else in the same situation would have done. I said to certain persons, that I wouldn’t leave them there. That’s it. And I didn’t leave them. I made sure they got out. That’s all.



THE DAYS AFTER, WHAT WAS YOUR JOB, WHAT DID YOU DO? AFTER THIS NIGHT, IT WAS ORGANIZING…. BUT WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER?When we came to Log Base, we retook our work. We restarted to do what we were doing before. So, me being the Chief of POC, the Police Operations Centre, I had to reorganize, asking for a room, asking for computers, assembling all the UNPOLs all the personnel that I had and reassure that they were all in security. I had one UNPOL who was gravely wounded on his arm, at home. But I was lucky. I didn’t lose any staff. Nobody under my responsibility.


So we retook slowly the work we had, we had the radio communication. We installed. Everybody was doing their thing on their own. But at the same time, we established little command posts, meeting rooms to be able to get together in the mornings, the evenings, at night. The first days, honestly, I slept but never more than one maybe two hours a day. There was no place to wash, to sleep. So it was in the vehicle. I was lucky to have access to certain military rations, that is what kept us. We made ourselves some little community food packages. When one would have some military ration, and another had a bottle of juice and another some coffee, we shared it and we got on like that at least one and a half week before we could go back to places where we could stay and live in a secure way. Where we could wash, shave, retake some kind of real life. For me, where I lived, at Delma 48, it was lost, I lost 3 friends – policeman – who were in that building. I lost… I wish I could name them. The guys I knew, Clayton Neiva, I hope I pronounce his name properly. Everybody said he was an angel, a living angel, an angel on earth. Ehm, Gustavo Gomez, Ariale Gomez, an Argentinean who was the former Chief of POC. I lost, I lost his name. A guy from CITS who helped us out a lot when it came to computers. He was fromCanada,Montreal, with his wife and his little girl, so kind. It’s impossible. Mark Gallager, a guy, UNPOL, who died after he just came back home from leave too. He used to cook for us a lot, a very good person, a very good friend. Douglas Coates, a man like that, the Chief of UNPOL at the moment of the event. It’s tragic. A good man, who helped me, who advised me in my job. I think two French friends, who also died in the Delma 48 building; Laurent Lebrero, who worked at JOC, he was really, really kind. And Lionel Amar, he was only shortly in the mission, he worked for the FPU, Force Police Unit. He was not a funny guy, but with a lot of life. The three, Mark, Lionel and Laurent died at Delma 48. so those are the people that I lost. It’s not a lot, but for me.. .they were my friends. I have the feeling that I lost in this earthquake these seven people. And they were no jokes. They were almost the seven persons that were the most friendly with me. I don’t know why I had to lose these friends like that. It was more than just people you know, it was good people. Good friends.



DO YOU THINK THIS EVENT HAD CHANGED YOU?Yes, certainly. I don’t know yet, I’ll see in the following years, how exactly. But I’m sure it changed me. I didn’t change my order of priorities in life, I just changed the importance I give to each of these things. For example, traveling. Eating well. All things that were a priority, but that have more importance right now. Yes I changed, that’s for sure.