News / USA

Haitian Earthquake Victim's Sketches Show Disaster, Relief

A black-and-white pencil drawing by Haitian earthquake victim Hugues Larose aboard the US Navy hospital ship Comfort
A black-and-white pencil drawing by Haitian earthquake victim Hugues Larose aboard the US Navy hospital ship Comfort

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A patient's view of the devastation in Haiti and his appreciation for the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort are attracting the attention of those on board.

The black-and-white pencil drawing, with its hard lines and delicate shading, is signed in the lower right corner in neat penmanship: Hugues Larose.  But Thionta Buckner, who helps nurses in the surgical medical ward of the Comfort, says they know Larose by another name.

"[He is]the patient we like to call 'The Artist,'" she said.
 
Larose came to the hospital ship about one week after a concrete wall fell and crushed him during the earthquake, injuring his right leg and fracturing his left clavicle.
 
"Most of the patients we get in, when they first get here, they are still crying about what happened and they are in pain and distress. Him, when he first got here, he was very quiet," added Buckner.

But, after a few days, Larose expressed himself in a different way. A Lieutenant Commander on the ward says Larose asked him for paper and a pencil, which the Lieutenant Commander had to sharpen with a pocket knife.

The Lieutenant Commander says he was moved by the drawing he saw a few hours later, and he photocopied it for a colleague.
 
Before long, copies were taped to doorways and left on tables for others to view. The beauty of the shading, the horrors of the scene and Larose's representation of the U.S. Military were subjects of conversation from the dining hall to the berths.
 
In the image's foreground, a partially dressed woman is trapped beneath a fallen utility pole and another person has half-escaped from a collapsed house. Web-like cracks splinter the concrete, juxtaposed with the straight and uniform lines of the cinder blocks.
 
One person sits in the center of the street, while a dozen others appear to scramble, some with arms in the air, toward the sea, where the Navy hospital ship Comfort and other U.S. ships with helicopters on deck are waiting to help.  Larose says the Comfort means a lot to him because without it, more of his Haitian brothers would have died.
 
Reclining on a lower bunk in the ward, with a dark green sling across his shoulder, Larose shows his sketches. His easel appears to be a metal board that could be used for patients' charts.
 
Before the earthquake, Larose made his living painting scenes from folklore and seascapes. These brightly colored scenes show people dancing, cleaning, cooking, and playing instruments on the porches of pink and yellow homes, with sailboats pulling up to the shore in the background. 

Now Larose uses pencil on white paper to illustrate the disaster.  Larose says sketching helps him cope. Haiti will be re-constructed, he says, but there will always be his drawings as a reminder of the earthquake's devastation.

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