Day 3

Port-au-Prince Travel Blog

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In front of the airport

On the morning of my second full day in Haiti I sat on the edge of the cot and looked down curiously to my clothes on the floor that I’d tossed down before going to bed. I picked up my shirt and just then realized that it was soiled with blood stains. If I thought I had been dreaming about the day before, I certainly knew it wasn’t a dream now.  It must have been 5 or 10 minutes later when I emerged from some very deep thoughts and finally put the shirt down. I took a cold shower under a garden hose, not necessarily by choice, but because we didn’t have hot water. The shower invigorated me, though, and I felt like I was ready to tackle the day.


Our group left for the airport at 7am but before we arrived a new development cropped up.

A building that had been standing the night before had toppled over into the road. Émile, our Haitian liaison, said we could take another route but there were no guarantees if it was even passable. As we waited for a report over the radio on the road condition, more of the Haitian locals began coming up to us. We still had water and some food rations, so we began handing out everything we had until it was completely gone. An hour later there was still no report on the road condition.


Upon studying the situation a bit longer, we decided that we could move enough of the concrete and debris on the far side of the road to get through with the trucks. We put on our gloves and began moving the chunks of concrete.  Some were obviously way too heavy to lift, and for these we used shovels to pry under them and roll them. 10 minutes into this backbreaking chore, the people we had given water and food to minutes earlier joined in, one by one, and started helping.

By the time we moved enough of the rubble to get through with the vehicles there must have been 30 Haitians helping us. As I glanced over to about 15 bodies that were covered with cloths, tarps, sheets, just whatever they could find to cover them with, I suddenly shut my eyes as tight as I could to fight off the wave of emotions that hit me like a tidal wave. These people had just lost everything, for some even their entire family was dead, yet they still had the courage to lend us a hand. I know that not many stories like that get heard from inside Haiti, but for me it made an impression that I won’t soon forget.


We eventually arrived at the airport just before noon and since we didn’t make it for breakfast we heartily ate some lunch while our trucks were being loaded. After eating we were allowed to use a couple of computers to send emails. Our time was very limited, so I sent two brief emails; one to my father and one to Asri to let them know I was okay. At one o’clock our trucks were locked and loaded and ready to go. On this mission we were driving into the heart of the city, providing the road would get us there.


To be continued…

pearcetoyou says:
Thank you for the comment, oriel! I really need to finish this blog one of these days...
Posted on: Mar 06, 2011
oriel says:
Hello again, James: I just read through your Haiti blog and was reminded that very little travel is done for the personal pleasure of the traveller - so many people are uprooted from their homes and the routine of their lives by the effects of national conflicts and natural disasters like the Haitian earthquake. And these effects are magnified by poverty to the point where people who face the terror of poverty every day of their lives end up being so crushed in spirit by an ocurrence like a hurricane or an earthquake that they default to survival mode. You pay tribute to Haitians when you write about people who - in sight of their ruined homes and the bodies of family members - were moved to assist in clearing concrete from the streets so UN trucks could pass through to take food and water to others. Tribute should also be paid to you for having the personal resources to be able to help out in a disaster like Haiti's, the willingness to apply those resources immediately and the skill to write about it in such an effective way that we can come closer to understanding what Haitians have experienced. Thank you!
Posted on: Mar 05, 2011
mslellen says:
This is so sad, but thank you for being so helpful to the people there.
Posted on: Feb 02, 2010
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In front of the airport
In front of the airport
photo by: danieljhudson