Haiti Day Four
The Earthquake- 14 Seconds of Hell
Tim and his wife were in the compound during the earthquake. Tim was interviewing a girl when it hit. Suddenly, their world crashed around them in fourteen seconds. Immediately following the shaking, they checked around the facility to make sure everyone was okay, and they were. The first night they stayed on the roof of their house, until aftershocks hit and they feared the house would crumble. Forced to leave due to a threat of a tsunami, they went to the high school. They lost all communication with the outside world. It was an isolated, unnerving situation. That night, they slept in the back of their flatbed truck. His wife said she felt like a survivor on the Titanic, on a lifeboat, waiting for some help from somewhere, but you had no idea where. Three days later they were evacuated in Black Hawk helicopters.
Earthquakes are so unsettling. A hurricane is coming, you know from the media and plan accordingly. A wildfire burns, and the police come to warn you to leave. No one has any idea when an earthquake is due, how long it will last, or where it will be centered. Then when it happens, you may have no options either. The building pancakes down around you, and you are done. When I was a kid in Seattle, I went through a 6.5 quake, and lived with fear of quakes for a couple of years after that. But the Haiti quake was 7.9. Very violent. Hence, the fear.
The terrible thing after the quake is the tent cities. Garett noticed today that there are signs of metal and concrete blocks appearing. Not good. The tent cities are becoming settlements. Permanent places. What happens in the next few years remains to be seen. Haiti has gotten so much publicity that the world is now aware of the problems. But how it can be fixed is a daunting challenge.
The rest of the team went home this morning, but Garett and I went to Port-au-Prince and hooked up with Eric Lotz, of Operation Blessing, and Chad Snyder of GLOW International, respectively. It was wonderful to see Chad again. He has been going pretty much full tilt since the earthquake. Two days after the quake he managed to get into Haiti (a miracle in itself) and lend aid. Now GLOW’s job is twofold; the original mission, and disaster relief. Driving through the torn up city, Chad expressed his frustration with the relief organizations:
“It’s like a shell game. They play games and you think you understand them, and are going to get grant money to provide the relief. Then when you turn over the shell, it’s empty. They shuffle them around again, and you try once more. It is very frustrating. Most of the time you’re talking to a lowest-tier person. When you try to move up the chain, they won’t let you.”
Left and right are spots of rubble from damaged buildings. A few have Haitians digging amongst the rubble, salvaging rebar or belongings.
Finally, at last, an excavator, actually working in the city! As I expressed my joy at seeing it, Chad replied, “That’s one of the two working in the city.” I saw one earlier, brand new. It was at the dealer’s. I told Chad about it.
“That’s nothing. They brought one in for disaster relief, brand new. It sat at the runway for months. Then lately they hauled it out. How stupid is that?” Still, with all the setbacks, GLOW is doing relief and feeding thousands of people.
I left Chad and hooked up with Garett and Eric, Jennifer and their kids. Operation Blessing is working out of a huge warehouse, their second, which they can use until the end of the month. A forklift is loading a truck, to the hilt, with boxes. What are they?
“Meds,” Eric answered sheepishly, “Going to be incinerated. Past expiration.”
While it looks and is frustrating, the ‘past pull’ medications were only ¼ of a $2 million gift, which they successfully distributed. When donated, they were informed that they must take them all, including the old stuff. While it was an ultimately great project, I said it would be nice if someone stopped the truck and ‘held it up’ for the remaining meds.
So even though relief is small and thin compared to the gigantic need, some pockets are working effectively.