Saturday, January 23, 2010

Siting on the porch...

I was siting on the porch having a drink a while ago. Quite naturally my thoughts turned to the last few days. I was deep in thought and was startled by the cry of a great blue heron. They sound like what a pterodactyl would sound like I have always thought.

I woke up last night about 2 AM. I listened to the other guys sleeping and wondered if sometime in the next ten seconds or ten hours if the ground would start heaving and the remaining buildings collapse. I thought about the millions of people who have blocked half the width of many roads in Port-au-Prince so that they can build tent cities and actual wooden and tin structures. They will not be moving back into the few remaining buildings very soon.

As I lay there in the heat I heard a moaning; it probably was coming from the clinic 150 feet away. The moaning was profoundly distressing as I understood it was someone fighting to live. After a while it stopped and for some reason I thought then, and think now, that he had finally given up the fight. Another life gone in this unfolding example of nature's lack of interest in our individual or collective survival.

A little later a parade went down the street. I got up and watched a few hundred people walk down the street carrying candles and singing in Creole. It's was not by any means a protest I had the sense it was something like a religious observance and an appeal to some god for relief to the people who were suffering. Very moving.

I smoked a cigarette and went back to bed wondering if I could get back to sleep. Just as slumber stole my thoughts I heard the most blood curdling scream I have ever heard in my 53 years. Again from the direction of the clinic. Half a dozens screams to freeze your heart and in the middle of the last an abrupt cutoff. Another soul blanked out? An emergency amputation without any anesthesia? There have been a lot of those I know. I do not know which and will never know but that man's voice is forever part of my history. Maybe that is why I awoke to record his last uttering.

I will sit here on my dock and drink my scotch and enjoy the love of my family and the safety of my life. I will know that I am very blessed and that somewhere a man is screaming for relief; a group of people are marching in the night for justice; thousands of strangers are dropping everything and going to a strange land to help strangers in a time of urgent need and somewhere a man is giving up the good fight because the burden for him is simply too much.

We humans have such varied daily existence that when we are exposed to something so fundamentally different from our norm we have a problem understanding that yes those are humans just like us. They want the same things: security and food for their families; the opportunity to contribute to the community; the knowledge that they will leave the world to their children a better place than that which they themselves entered.

The information I have seen on CNN since I got home a couple of hours ago is a very distorted picture of what I saw. The news folks run around in $ 80,000 Range Rovers with drivers and armed guards and drop in on various 'news opportunities'. I helped change the diaper of a little guy today who was saved from starvation at the SA clinic in the last few days; great glad to do it everyone knows I got that particular activity nailed. What I did not like was the ten or so news cameras clicking away at a dozen frames a second. I understand the need for information but let us get the work done eh? Stopping clogging the already blocked streets; stop eating food that should go to the needy and stop running around like you are what is important. I met one reporter from the Philadelphia Enquirer that was fantastic; I am really sorry I did not get her name. She was reporting but not intruding; contributing if it did not violate her professional code. Well done. I also met a reporter from the Toronto Globe and Mail and he spent most of a day with Vegar and myself while we set up the SDQ to PaP trucking operation. Another good guy. I will leave the jerks out of the list.

All of us who ever do this sort of thing have these memories. I think I mentioned early on that Andree was concerned about the emotional impact on me of the experience. I will remember the night; it was the same each night I was there. I think it is worthwhile to me that I have those memories and I can better appreciate what I have in my life.

1 comment:

  1. Rick, we love you. Well done. I will paraphrase my old buddy Bruce Baird: "Sit down, kiss the people you love, and go to sleep, man." JD


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