Donna Brazile forwards this, dated a few days ago, from our friend Minyon Moore, who is traveling with Bill Clinton:
Minyon Moore, January 18, 2010
We landed in Haiti about 5 hours ago. It has been approximately a week since the major earthquake struck this country. I had the privilege of traveling here today with President Bill Clinton and other dignitaries to deliver some much-needed supplies.
There was a deafening silence on the plane as we approached the landing. Everyone was peering out the windows in an attempt to see and gauge the level of devastation. Obviously, it was not very visible to us. At first glance, you would assume you are coming to a country that did not have a care in the world. It was very beautiful from up high. Mountains, water –it is a beautiful country.
Unfortunately, we all knew why we were there. To deliver much needed supplies to the earthquake victims. It became apparent very quickly that food, water, and medical supplies were desperately needed. Moreover, I realized that in a in a strange way, this relief was not only helping those who were the victims of the earthquake, but all Haitians. In this impoverished country, the majority of the people lacked so much before this natural disaster, and they too might finally be receiving some basics like food and water. It was certainly hard to distinguish the poor from the earthquake victims.
As we approached the terminal, we could see the military helicopters and aircrafts for the staging areas and supply distribution. There is a large military presence at the airport along with UN soldiers. The US military has been present and coordinating the US operations at the airport. They are hard at work. Most have been here since the evening of the quake. Hundreds of evacuee’s are lined up at the airport hoping to get out. Even that is sad — they are probably evacuating with what little they have left. The fortunate few, while thousands remain trapped.
As the UN vehicles got closer to Port-Au-Prince, you could see the first signs of the ruins and the collapsed buildings. Decimated. I kept wondering how anyone could survive these collapses. I concluded God’s big and small miracles must certainly be at work. Some were smashed like pancakes. It is hard to describe the buildings. The concrete does not even look like concrete. Buildings just torn apart like a piece of paper. The earthquake seemed to have hit in a surgical way. Buildings collapsed and then the one next to it was standing. My mind keeps thinking about any possible survivors. It would be a miracle. I also understand we did not get to see the most severe part of the earthquake — God Help!
Yet, what appears so incredibly odd is the number of people walking along the streets. Almost in a carefree manner. It must be that resilience you keep hearing people talk about when describing the Haitian people. Rodney Slater (former Transportation Secretary under President Clinton) and I both noticed it. Many with backpacks and some wearing masks, but they did not appear to be earthquake victims. Just ordinary citizens of Haiti. There were an overwhelming number of people just on the street. You wonder where they go at night. Therefore, it is hard to tell who was impacted and who was not. It was as though it was just another day.
We just passed the Presidential Palace. The TV photos have done this no justice. Collapsed. The dome sunk into the middle of the structure. The health, justice and education departments collapsed as well. No government structure left. The Agriculture building survived. Now across the street from this palace is “tent” city. A beautiful park has now been transformed into a living quarters for displaced Haitians. As far as the naked eye could see, people. Clothes are hanging over the fence from apparent washing, tents, sheets pitched everywhere. Lord if this is a way to remind a president then he is certainly being reminded. We the people… a constant reminder of those who have lost their homes, but crap he is homeless too.
Then it dawned on me — poverty and the earthquake have now collided. Part of this is simply the poverty they live in everyday and the other part is the devastation of the earthquake. It is all one horrific problem now.
There general hospital survived. The nursing hospital collapsed killing scores of people. The heroic doctors, nurses and volunteers who are treating the badly injured should be thanked and applauded. The conditions and lack of medical supplies makes the job that much tougher. They are trying to save lives without having all the necessary medical supplies. As we drive up you notice the hospital tents where make shift beds have been made outside because of lack of space inside. Lots of broken legs, amputated legs and burns/abrasions from the concrete. Families are crowded around their loved ones beds outside. I see no signs of food — just people standing watching. A look of “can you help” seems to be apparent. Cannot wait until the Clinton Foundation supplies arrive on the flatbed –hopefully it will help, but I know they will need more.
Inside the hospital, you have the worst victims. Their pain is apparent and painful to see. Burn victims and people with abrasions from the concrete were everywhere. I have never seen so many amputations. Stretchers are bringing people in and out and taken right back to the make shift wards outside the hospital. On a lighter note, a man sitting next to his wife’s bed started fussing with one of the reporters because he was bumping up against her bed. Her leg was mobilized and he did not want them to move her badly damaged leg. He smiled and said to me, “her come first right?” I said “yes, sir.”
Still trying to get a handle on how we can help individually and collectively. Money is definitely needed for sure so please donate to an organization of your choice or go to the Clinton Foundation website http://www.clintonfoundation.org and make a donation – it does not matter how big or small. More importantly, we all must take a stronger look at how we deal with poverty around the world and began to address that in a more systematic and sustainable way.