Saturday, January 8, 2011


I have driven along many miles of road throughout the U.S. Consistently there are road side memorials posted along highways. A cross adorned with a flower wreath, candles or a picture. A marker for the untimely loss of a child in an accident. On top of the site of a mass grave outside of Leogane cemetery, resting place to 2,500 residence, sits a similar hallmark. It is a five foot tall cross made of three inch by one inch iron. There is a single wreath made of wilted leaves and pink ribbons hung at the cross section. At the foot of the cross a second ten inch tall one, stumpy and thick, protrudes from the four by five foot concrete slab.

The grave site was messy. There was concrete and ruble. Piles of rock. Garbage strewn about covered in dust and sand. I had a cold so I spat. Before it hit the ground I cringed. I had a hard time remembering what was underfoot. The one year anniversary of the earthquake was coming on the twelfth and All Hands was tasked with creating a memorial on the site.

Our crew had finished the framing for School 7 on Monday so we moved on to the cemetery project. Brendan and Chris had stayed on base working with the All Hands architect Nate, architect Thom (U.K), and architect Thom (U.S.). They hashed out ideas with Brendan and Chris offering input into the various issues that might arrive in construction. The result is something that you would expect from a bunch of architects with free reign.

The design is a picket fence. It's posts skewed forward and backward along a vertical plane. The pickets follow the twists of the connecting two by four chords moving the them in a wave. First the tops lean back into the memorial while the bottoms kicks out then transition to plumb before shooting there points out at the street. The fence leads to three crescendos where the pickets edge forward before completing a double helix climb into a horizontal trellis. Under two of the trellis are benches incorporated into the frame and the third is the entrance to the memorial. Inside the memorial are two rock gardens defined by stones around the perimeter and larger rocks dispersed through out. In the center, between the two gardens, stands the cross.

When I arrived on site Tuesday I was tasked with figuring out the cuts to connect the two by four chords to the misaligned posts. Chris helped a bit in the morning but moved ahead to set posts. Motos and Tap-taps flew by, kicking up dust and blaring their horns as the they attempted to pass one another. Community members gathered around and attempted conversations. When they realized I couldn;t understand what they were saying they reduced to "bon travay." With out Chris to help me with the chords I worked with local volunteers. We had a communication gap. I was alone in my understanding of how to cut one compound miter on one end and what that resulted in the other. I would instruct the local to hold at this point while I scribed at that point. Take out my speed square, utilize it as a protractor, determine the angle, adjust the bevel on the saw, cut along my mark. Switch. Repeat. Make my cut. Come up short and gap the distance with a screw. Move to the top. The angle is more drastic. An eight footer won't work so I have to use a twelve. There are only a few twelves so if this one doesn't come out right then I just wasted a board. I make my marks. adjust the bevel and cut along the scribe line. Switch, Repeat. Make my cut. and come up long, After that I am warry to cut too much off for fear of coming up short. I remove the bard and make a cut . Put it place. Long. Cut. Place. Long. Drop the board and move to the next. Leopold follows and ask about the last board.

"It frustrated me so I moved on"


I explained to him that theses boards were tricky and that trying to figure out these angles was something that I could do better alone. He nodded in agreement. I moved on to another on the far side of the site. as a set the clamps up to hold my board in place he came and began to hold the board. I scribed my line and cut. The battery died half way through and the tap-tap had arrived.

Aaron joined me on Thursday. We began the morning adjusting and fixing my cuts from Wednesfday. Before long we were moving down the fence line. The communication was simple but precise. Each bevel sat in its niche. By days end we had completed the majority of the fence. We trouble-shot with Thom UK on the corner posts and how to implement them. Jiella and the fencing crew nailed in the fencing. Nate's vision was emerging.

Friday came and we moved. Complicated cuts fell into place. Chris and his post crew finished. Aaron and I set all but four of the fence chords. The picketers traced our steps and set their pieces . The fence ran along the front of Leogane cemetery. At the end of the day when the sun was low the undulating picket wave was captured again in it's shadow. The main trellis cast lines of shadow and light on people who pass underneath. My cold still bothered me. I walked to the street and spat.


PBS will air a piece on Leogane, including the cemetery project, on Wednesday the 12th.

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