How surviving the 2010 Haiti earthquake changed my life

January 9, 2020 Marc Perreault

For 18 hours, I was buried under the collapsed Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, following a magnitude 7.3 earthquake. Ten years later, I look back.

 

On January 12, 2010, I flew to Haiti on business for an engineering project. After a brief meeting with a partner, I went back to my hotel room to rest. I woke up in total darkness, buried under three concrete floors. My head was just a few centimetres away from a concrete slab. Trapped and in pain, I thought about my children, my family, my friends and my career. Surprisingly, I also thought about my wine cellar, which was stocked with expensive bottles I hadn’t yet enjoyed. 

 

 

The power of positivity

Little by little, one by one, the screams of others around me were fading. I thought to myself, I’m going to die. 

Still, I kept a positive attitude, grateful for having led a full and happy life. Hearing mosquitos buzz around me meant that there was enough air for me to breathe, and that helped me hold on to some hope for survival. I kept yelling for help, not willing to give up any chance of rescue. Then, a miracle happened, 18 hours later. _q_“We all deal with issues and problems every day; staying positive is a must.”_q_

Rescuers found me and pulled me out. I felt so lucky to be alive! I was rushed to the city’s airport tarmac for emergency medical treatment, where a doctor instructed others not to treat me; my injuries were too severe, and my chances of survival were slim. But somehow, a familiar face discovered me in the chaos.

A policewoman I knew from Montreal recognized me. A friend of a friend of mine, she had travelled to Port-au-Prince as part of a peacekeeping mission when the earthquake hit. Luckily, she knew I was in Haiti at the same time. And, thanks to her, I was brought back to Montreal, where I was cared for at Sacré-Cœur hospital for a month and a half.

 

 

Staying optimistic and living in the moment

For years, I underwent rehabilitation to help regain full use of my legs, which had been crushed in the rubble of the Montana Hotel. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my experience, my future, and my personal philosophy.

This event truly changed my life. Staying positive is important to me now, and it’s a lot easier to do than one might think. Every morning, I wake up feeling happy and optimistic.

Since joining Stantec in 2018, I’ve tried to foster positive energy within my team. I believe this approach does more than create a friendly work environment; it’s an attitude that makes me a better leader. 

As a leader of an 800-person diversified team, my role is to ensure that the best resources are in the right place, so that they may truly leverage their know-how. In addition, making time to listen to my team members and working with them to find the best solutions—that’s the part of my job that I really love most.

Once I recovered from my injuries, I realized how lucky I was to be alive and to create new memories with my children, my family, and my friends. And so, in 2011, I emptied out my wine cellar! I no longer keep my good bottles for later and instead share them with friends and family. I now choose to live each day to its fullest. 

 

An inspired and motivated team

Although I hope that my story will inspire others, I especially hope to achieve many more things in my life. And, as a Stantec leader, I hope that I can continue to motivate and empower my team to do their best work.

We all deal with issues and problems every day, both professionally and personally. Staying positive is a must. As a leader, it’s important to listen and to inspire. In the end, when you’ve got a positive attitude, it will bring everyone together.

After this trying event, I wrote a book, Récit d’un survivant du séisme en Haïti, and gave conferences about what I’d been through. A part of the funds went toward building an orphanage in Haiti, a place that more than 60 children now call home. I was fortunate to survive the earthquake, and I wanted to share my incredible story with others. But, it was also a way to humbly help the Haitian people affected by this tragic event.

About the Author

Marc Perreault

Leading a group of 400 employees, Marc Perreault plays a key role in the strategic positioning of our Quebec Buildings team, overseeing operations management while ensuring the growth of the business line in Quebec. Marc has more than 25 years’ engineering experience and a diverse background in building design and development, as well as in industrial and service development projects. A seasoned and versatile manager, he has distinguished himself through his dynamic approach, vision, and leadership. As a project lead, he took part in various large-scale projects across Quebec, in the United States and abroad

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