Here are some excerpts from Tim Wiant's account of his experience in Haiti last week.
...At the orphanage: We felt quite a shake. I thought the bobcat I was on was jumping from left wheels to right wheels to left wheels for a few seconds. I saw waves, appearing to be a foot or two in size from left to right, coming toward me on a north / south security wall. Amazingly it stood and has no visible damage. Our orphanage shook but has no visible signs of damage. Some homes in this neighborhood were demolished and most concrete structures have at least moderate damage. The local laborers that we hire usually make fun of how wasteful we are in the excessive steel reinforcement rod and Portland cement that we use in our concrete construction.... but our large building is intact today.
When our project leader returned Wednesday night the decision was made to evacuate. The Embassy suggested we evacuate and we felt our staying at the orphanage would use food and water supplies that may become essential for the orphans survival. With the general lack of electricity, black market fuel prices had already soared to $50 per gallon. We expect food supplies to be short and black market activity will shift to food also. We sent the staff to market with extra money to stockpile rice, beans, pasta, etc for the next few days.
To evacuate meant we needed to button up the facility so we worked into the night to finish wiring and plumbing what had to be done. We had to close up service panels, finish installing receptacles, install cover plates and finish plumbing jobs so the facility will be usable and safe. Then to re-secure the tools, supplies and equipment before leaving early Thursday AM. It was a very short night.
The rock slides on the main road over the mountain had been cleared, at least the road surface. If it was the rainy season they are in trouble as many of the road ditches are plugged with debris. We arrived at the Embassy about 11:00 AM Thursday. We were processed and waited.
...While waiting we found the embassy was short-staffed, as many workers were out, not reporting in or searching for family that may have been lost in the quake. We volunteered to clean bathrooms, pass out MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat...which weren't really too bad), and other jobs the staff needed done. The Doctors Without Borders had set up a clinic at the embassy and they were running short on supplies. We donated Cipro antibiotic and various pain medications for them to use. At midnight the embassy staff came out and told us to quietly get ready, as by then the number at the embassy had grown to over 400, with only a backpack to carry (leaving most clothes, shoes and toiletries) and to get outside for a convoy to the airport. It reminded me of the show "24"... sirens going off as the double entry gates opened at the embassy and multiple Suburbans and Vans sped into the facility. They stopped in front of us, we loaded and we were whisked off to the Airport back gate under heavy security.
They drove to a few feet away from a C-17 cargo plane equipped with 100 jump seats. This big plane is capable of payload weights to 85 tons, so as one of the 100 passengers on board you better hang on as the thrust and braking is very impressive.
...Our trip was successful in accomplishing many of the tasks that needed to be done even though it was cut very short. We have a shipping container that should have made it out of Port last week, but now that port is damaged, records might be compromised and we just have to wait. We have paint, supplies, equipment, sealers and more sitting in a container at a port which is not functioning....and when it does function.... emergency aid items will be priority of course.
We never felt threatened, but that society can excite to riot quickly and over minor situations, so we were cautious. We saw destruction in the community and hopelessness in the eyes of many in Port Au Prince. So different than 40 miles away at the orphanage where our kids are schooled and cared for. The kid's smiles stick with me every time I close my eyes, but they have so little, no parents or family...yet they exhibit real joy.
We are concerned that as people migrate out of Port Au Prince to escape the devastation and look for food that added pressure on the community near our orphanage will put our orphans security and food supply at risk. That will drive the cost of protecting, feeding and educating our kids higher. At the same time we expect a flood of new orphans created by this catastrophe.
Americans take so much for granted. We have so many comforts and often we aren't satisfied. Take a moment and be thankful of where we live and how well we have it...