Sunday, January 17, 2010

First blog from Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI-- The devestation and sadness here are hard to describe. I feel it looming around me, but so far, have seen such a small portion of it.

I left the airport in Port-au-Prince after nightfall, so my glimpse of the destruction came only through what was illuminated by the headlights of the truck I was riding in, or by the fires that burned in the street.

Some of the homes and business are fine. Next door to those seemingly sound structures, however, are schools, hospitals and grocery stores toppled. People, both living and dead, were still trapped inside as I rode past. It's too dark to search. So, sadly, they'll have to wait until morning.

I am staying in a small village in the town of Bon Repos just outside of Port-au-Prince. I'm with a group called Air Mobile Ministries and we are staying with an incredibly accomodating hostess named Barbara in this village she built on her own through donations. Let me tell ya, she is somethin'! She's a tough-talkin' New Yorker even the meanest Haitians are too afraid to mess with.

Tonight, on the drive home from the airport, we came upon a bridge that was blocked off. The locals came up to the window and told us it was unsafe to cross. While we all clung to anything we could grab on to, Barbara hit the gas and crossed the bridge anyway. She said they were trying to trick us into taking a detour where they'd corner us and force us to give them money. The other side of the bridge was blocked by tires and other debris. It was intentionally put there so the locals could collect a "toll."

Barbara wasn't having it.

She made John, one of the guys in our group, get out to move the tires and she drove past the now cleared road block as she sarcastically yelled to the wanna-be bridge tender, "Merci beaucoup!!"

Mom, Dad, don't let that story scare you. She's unconventional but we're in good hands. I can't wait to tell you more about Barbara. She is doing some truly amazing work here.

So far I've heard such scary stories about when the earthquake struck. Barbara runs an orphanage here in the village. They children were all on the second story of one of the homes here when it hit. Mandi, one of the nurses volunteering here, says she literally dove for the children when everything began shaking. Incredibly, everyone is ok.

We had our own scare tonight. A tremor rocked the building this evening around 9:30pm and we all had to run outside to safety. Barbara is noticing more and more cracks in her house as the tremors continue.

Tomorrow, we'll go out and truly survey the damage. The founder of Air Mobile Ministries, Joe Hurston, will be out repairig some of the 232 water filtration systems he has here in Haiti. I hope to bring you all stories from the survivors in hopes of painting a more personalized picture of just how destructive this earthquake was.

Tonight, all of the people in the village are sleeping outside with a tiny TV tuned to CNN. I heard Anderson Cooper say something along the lines of, "Wherever you are, be grateful it isn't Port-au-Prince." I, however, am grateful I AM in Port-au-Prince so I can hopefully share stories that might otherwise be overlooked in this tragedy.

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