Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Weeping for Haiti

We are parked in the open-air portion of the Economy parking lot at Tampa International Airport (map). $9 gets you 24 hours here; I purposely pulled in to the lot just before 6pm, so we're good for most of the day.

I was a little nervous pulling in, as the web site said the clearance was 13'0", and I was expecting just to have to creep under the entry ticket booth, then drive around to the back along an open-air road, as shown in the satellite image. When I arrived, however, I saw they had completed a garage expansion since that image was taken, and I would have to drive all the way through the garage to get to the outside lot in the back. It turns out, though, that both the ticket booth and the garage aisle were 13'6", so I did not even have to "squat" the suspension; the route for over-height vehicles was clearly marked.

Once I got parked I immediately boarded a shuttle for the terminal, to scope out dining options for when Louise landed, and check out the Galleria Mall inside the terminal, where most of the stores would only be open till 7. It must have been 6:30 or so when I wandered over to the Skyye Bar in the airport Marriott, the only venue that would still be serving food when Louise arrived, to check out the menu. Like many hotel bars, this one had an array of televisions scattered throughout, and the news reports of the earthquake in Haiti were prominent on about half of them.

The magnitude was featured prominently on the bottom of the screen, and a quick check of my Twitter feed confirmed it (I follow @EQTW, an automated worldwide earthquake reporting system run by the USGS) -- 7.0 on the Richter scale. I've lived through a 7.0 quake and the recovery afterwards, and I knew instantly that Port au Prince was destroyed completely, a city of over two million. I returned to the bus to wait the three hours or so for Louise's flight, where I was surprised to find most major news outlets had already moved off the Haiti coverage to much more important news, such as Conan O'Brien refusing to move the Tonight Show's time slot to make room for Jay Leno (the media is nothing if not self-obsessed).

Today's reports, which as yet have not included an estimated death toll, have been unsurprisingly grim. From my reading of it, most of the hospitals have been destroyed, along with aid centers and even many relief agencies along with their supplies. This poorest of western-hemisphere nations, already decimated by years of civil unrest and pounded repeatedly by powerful hurricanes (four in 2008 alone), has once again been dealt a terrible blow by nature. Our hearts go out to them.

Several people, aware that we are volunteers for the American Red Cross, have inquired as to whether we might be deployed to Haiti. The short answer is no. Haiti has its own Red Cross, and is out of the purview of the American organization. I am quite certain that the International Red Cross will be mobilizing resources to help, and that the American Red Cross will be contributing personnel to that effort, but those personnel come from a list of folks who have received special training and been pre-qualified for international work. We can't qualify for that list because it requires a readiness commitment that we can't meet living on the road; we do have friends on that list, though, and I expect they will be deployed shortly.

I'd like to be there -- one of my specialties is communications, and that is a desperate need at the moment, as the country's entire communications infrastructure has been destroyed, crippling the ability to coordinate basic relief efforts. However, all we can do at this point is watch, and send money. Donating money is always the best way to support these sorts of international relief efforts; the logistics of dealing with individual contributions of anything else virtually negates the effectiveness of the donation. You can help by contributing directly to the the international relief fund of the American Red Cross (the American Red Cross has already pledged one million dollars to the relief in Haiti, as well as having released its cache of aid supplies in Panama), or to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

We'll remain right here at the airport until just before our 24 hours is up. Then we'll roll just a couple miles to the Centre Club for dinner; I've scoped out a spot where we can park the bus for a few hours. We can't spend the night in that spot, so I expect we will drive the three miles to Wal-Mart for the night; tomorrow morning we need to be rolling to Stuart for Cruiser Expo, which starts Friday morning. I still have my eyes peeled for motorcycle shops; the joint I walked to yesterday is apparently out of business, with a "for lease" sign on the building. Tantalizingly, I could still see stock through the store windows, as well as a fenced yard with at least a couple dozen motorcycle carcasses in it, and I'm sure I could have found what I needed had anyone been there.

1 comment:

  1. I spent some time in Carrefour (just a few miles north of the quake epicenter) many years ago. I helped build a children's home as part of a church mission project. Sadly, knowing firsthand the construction techniques common in that area, that building is probably gone.


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