I left Haiti this weekend with an incredible sense of pride for the work done by so many caring individuals and an overwhelming sense of being, well…..overwhelmed. As I’ve shared with you through this blog, the sheer magnitude of the destruction, the misery and the hopelessness will drag you down instantly. Yet at the same time, when you focus on one story at a time and one life touched, it begins to feel manageable in some way.
I realize there are so many personal lessons learned, personal perspectives changed and that there are many stories yet to tell about my brief time in Haiti. As such, I intend to use this blog to continue to share the many vignettes and personal snapshots collected since arriving in Port Au Prince. Doing this is both therapy for me and a way to keep all of us focused on how to help this incredibly resilient culture and its people.
I hope you will continue to look for updates here. At last count there have been almost 4000 hits to this blog in the last two weeks. If each of us collectively find a way to contribute our time, talent and treasure that’s a lot of time, talent and treasure we can provide toward the recovery. I will be working with many of the incredible professionals and organizations I had the privilege to interface with, including MTI, to formulate a longer term strategy. The Haitian people will need us for years to come. I intend to help lead the formulation of some meaningful next steps and will look to all 4000 of you to consider your role in those plans. Stand by.
In the meantime, let me share how it was I found my way home….because getting out of Haiti at this point is not business as usual:
The only way out at this stage is A) An 18 hour drive over the mountains to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic or B) One of 2 small daily United Nations Charters out of Port Au Prince to Santo Domingo. From there it’s catch-as-catch-can on a commercial flight to the States. The third way is most akin to spinning the roulette wheel – going to the airport and standing by for a military cargo flight out of Port Au Prince to an unknown point in the United States. Being a gambler, this is the route I choose. It was really very simple…show your passport to US Military personnel in front of the airport, walk up to a makeshift immigration table on the tarmac manned by the State Department, fill out a US Citizen refugee evacuation form and wait for the next flight to come in, off load cargo and be taken to points unknown. I went to the airport around 9:30 pm. Was woken up from a fitful nap by an Army Captain at 12:30. Got on a C 17 by 1:00 am and landed in Orlando by 4:00. Of the 26 passengers on my flight, 17 were orphaned children on their way to their new adoptive parents in the US. The kids were escorted by two Americans. Looking onto their eyes through my own haze of 10 days on the ground, I saw fear, elation and confusion. But I also saw that under almost any circumstance, kids will be kids — as one of the Air Force crew members passed out Blow-Pops and chips to 17 excited hands.
When we landed in Orlando, the back of the plane dropped down to the tarmac and we were met by a horde of customs officials and border patrol folks. It was a bit surrealistic walking down that ramp alone and past throngs of expectant adoptive parents waiting to meet their kids, some for the first time. As with many things on this trip, a wave of emotion swept over me thinking about what the kids and parents have gone through to get them to this point. Lives forever changed.
It was that emotion that lead me into the terminal at 4:15 am and up to the Dollar rental car counter where I got a car on the spot and drove 3 hours to visit my own parents who are on Anna Maria Island, south of Tampa. It was a poignant visit for me, fueled with the knowledge of just how lucky some of us truly are. Why me, instead of that kid sitting across the plane from me? Why me, instead of that guy whose leg we just took below the knee? Why me instead of the girl whose baby we delivered while her husband was having his maggot infected big toe amputated? Why me, instead of the woman who died in the car on the way to our hospital? Why me? I don’t know…..But man do I feel both burdened and empowered by my good fortune and driven to make a difference.
More to come.