Mission To Haiti

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From desperation... to patience

From desperation... to patience

by Patrick Terpstra

WVEC.com

Posted on January 22, 2010 at 9:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 12 at 3:13 PM

This morning I took a helo to an "LZ," as in "landing zone. Really it's just a field next to the town of Leogane. As soon as I landed, there again was a huge crowd of Haitians watching helo after helo land and offload food and water. Let me tell you, it's not a wise idea to stand where they did. Every time a helo comes in or leaves, you have to crouch down and close your eyes because it kicks up dust. And trash. It took a while to get it all out of my hair tonight. Yesterday a limb snapped off and dislocated a Marine's shoulder at that LZ when a helo landed. The gust is that strong. But the Haitians think maybe they will be lucky enough to score some water or meals-ready-to-eat. Their patience is unbelievable. If you saw my 5 o'clock piece tonight you saw drawings from a Haitian who sketched a Marine helicopter dropping food to outstretched hands. I will never forget that drawing, to tell you the truth. A Marine translator said the man couldn't understand why he was being kept from the food. It's difficult for me to understand this process as well, but it works like this -- all the food dropped off is picked up by the UN and then distributed elsewhere. So you can imagine how torturous it is for the Haitians to see all this and then realize, NO. It's not for you right here right now. I asked a gunnery sergeant with the Marines about this and he explained the UN has a complex procedure already in place for feeding, and letting them dole out the supplies prevents all kinds of possible disorder. But every trip to Haiti I always feel extremely guilty when I open my backpack to grab another battery or some water. I worry they will see my stash of granola bars, trail mix, cookies, you name it. I lost a microphone (briefly, boss!) and Haitians were helping me look for it. When I thanked one of the men helping me, he asked if I had anything to drink. I thought about that. I've been asked for money, for food, a lot of things. But no one's ever asked me for something to drink. And I was out of water. Otherwise I might have given it to him. These experiences make you think. Why am I the one with a backpack full of food and that man the one with nothing to drink, a collapsed home, and perhaps lost loved ones? There is not an easy answer to that.

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