We landed and got off the plane to a dry heat and devastation
Chapter 3 “Haiti Forever”
We landed and got off the plane to a dry heat, the only breeze seeming to come from the jet engines on the tarmac.
Our friends at Partners in Health are here and everything is being handled more efficiently than I could ever have imagined. PIH has brought one large truck and two smaller trucks.
We are greeted by Montreal police officers who are here under peacekeeping duties for the UN. They are wonderful guys – both are called Jacques so I dub them ‘Jacques squared’. They are a credit to our country – they are bright, they are articulate, and they are passionate about their mission here.
They escort all foreign aid personnel around because they know the country and the city, inside and out. They would like to be doing more, even digging out the mess, but they have to be available to make sure all the help is getting where it should go.
We are also greeted by people from our embassy and SIDA and I am shocked to find out our embassy is in need of water and of course I agree right away to divert some of the water going to PIH to our embassy, and the other organization coming from Montreal. They were so happy to get our water – so Pepsi should be so proud they have helped so many people.
The bigger difficulty is why our wonderful Canadian volunteers are lacking? I promise them that they should send us a list and we will put something together for the next convoy.
What is also a concern is why our Embassy has a need for water when clearly parked on the tarmac, was a Canadian Forces jumbo cargo plane. I am proud of the fact we are able to help our fellow Canadians, but the question begs to be asked – who is coordinating this? Are we so bogged down with bureaucracy that we miss opportunities? Maybe it reinforces my belief that for Real Change we will need philanthropists who are entrepreneurial.
The Air Canada staff did a yeomen job packing, and everything moves quite quickly. They separated each airline container in two: the top half for SIDA and the bottom half for ONEXONE. We also had all our water, so we can be very grateful to Air Canada for everything they did.
Once I am comfortable that everything is seemingly OK, I make a decision – perhaps not one of intellect, more an emotional one. I ask the representatives of UN if they will take me outside the airport and show me the situation first hand. They check and agree. I advise the Air Canada personnel and leave the tarmac comfortable that we are more than 50 percent unloaded and PIH are doing the very best job imaginable. We leave with ‘Jacques squared’ and Mario, a commandant of the Montreal police force.
The first thing they ask me, is to put on an extra bullet-proof vest that they have, and I do. It’s heavy and it’s hot, but I wear it.
We leave the airport, and the first thing I see is a mass of humanity trying to get into the airport. The first roundabout is so familiar to me.
As we make our way approximately 5 minutes from the airport, I am in shock. There is nothing left. Almost every building is down and those that aren’t down, have such damage that they surely will have to be destroyed if they don’t fall first.
What is more distressing are the Haitian people. They are walking aimlessly. They don’t seem to have anywhere specific to go. And if they did, where has it gone?
There are no stores, no restaurants, no buildings.
Where are they living?
Where are they buying food?
I don’t really want to think about it. I start to snap pictures because then I know that I’ll have a ‘filter’ in front of me, even if it is small. I am listening to ‘Jacques squared’ describing their nightmare.
For the first time ever, we have lost 2 officers. Two Mounties who came here to work for the UN peacekeeping forces are gone. One was in the UN compound and one was in his home. They are upset – they know their jobs bring risk, and you can tell they are dedicated and committed, but they are scared. ‘Younger Jacques’ is just starting to feel better. He was suffering the effects of losing his friends, but I
think he was also in the quake and having survived it, I would assume he is grateful but questioning. They are having trouble contacting their families. Phone and internet service are down and this is creating more stress. I promise to explore options and of course I call Mr Rogers. They are thrilled and appreciative. They have other brethren whose houses are not up and who lost all their possessions, so they are sharing clothing. They don’t complain, they are explaining their predicament. Meanwhile I am snapping and seeing sites where the rescue dogs are looking for bodies.
Every day bodies are left by the side of the road to be picked up in garbage bags.
Where has humanity gone?
Where is the respect?
Where is the dignity?
There is no choice – it is what it is.
Bodies left on the street will surely bring disease and then we will have a whole other problem.
‘Younger Jacques’ tells us that for the first 48 hours they had gotten a tsunami warning and this became another huge stress.
More pictures – a major bank which would have been solid, is cracking everywhere. Where are the construction codes?
We are not in the epicentre, that is a ways a way, yet even here there is complete destruction.
We pass an area where there are makeshift tents – sheets on wooden sticks. People are living there now – not sure where the toilet facilities are. Where is the running water? Women must be living with nightmares with the issue of personal hygiene.
The children aren’t visible. I am not seeing many, but am I not looking? Do I not want to see?
Jacques continues… there was hope, people were feeling hopeful. Everyone was happy about President Clinton’s new responsibility. They really believe in him and think he is going to make a difference. I tell Jacques about our work within President Clinton’s group of NGO’s and how I too, was confident that he was moving forward and that there were ideas for businesses and George Soros’ wonderful pledge. I could see that there was going to be improvement. I saw President Clinton’s interview on television, and he pledged confidence and he pledged commitment and I want to believe him.
But in the end, this quake hit the capital city. The roads were terrible, now they are worse. The country needed a Marshall Plan before we all thought – it needs it more now.
We were planning for sustainable change. We are back to putting a band-aid on cancer.
This isn’t OneXOne’s vision. We wanted to be part of the progress, of the positive ability to put people to work. We just delivered thousands of bottles of water.
Am I proud? Of course I am. Am I discouraged? Maybe I’m just tired – it’s been a long week.
We keep moving on through the streets and we see the same thing. We come to a rather large makeshift camp site and a young girl, clearly starving, asks for food. Jacques takes a bag of mixed nuts and gives it to her. He had asked me for food previously. They don’t have really anything to eat that is appealing to them. Our officers, those who should be lacking for nothing, need dried foods and power bars and sometimes water. So I promise we are going to do something this week.
The girl says “Merci” and walks away, and a young man behind her asks – there is nothing to give him.
We go back to the airport. I am not sorry I came – the pictures speak for themselves.
We come back to the airport and go through the search and rescue camp. Countries from all over the world have sent teams made up of a person and a dog – their sole purpose is to search for bodies buried deep in the rubble.
We are back at the tarmac and our goods have been loaded and gone.
AMAZING job by PIH and Air Canada, especially Jude. He’s our new hero.
I want to go home really bad.