The military buildup at the APOD (Arial Point of Debarkation)) and the LSA (Logistical Support Area) is taking place at a rapid speed now. Nothing stays the same long. The sink stall where I wash up and brush my teeth is in a new spot. Some of the port-a-potties have been shifted around. Few of the people I am looking for are where I found them the time before. The unit I came with, the 377 TSC has returned to re-group for some training they are required to do and will be back in Haiti by the end of the month. A few of them remain, so I staid on as well.
Many of the soldiers I’m meeting were home five months since returning from their last deployments to Afghanistan or Iraq before coming to Haiti. The 82nd Airborne, some of the first on the ground thought they would be here only a month. They are faced with not only the mission but also lots of loose ends back home. There are also soldiers who volunteered for this mission. Some who have Haitian roots and speak the language like John Antoine. Some of his family lives in Haiti and though he has visited them, he has had little time to help them directly which pains him, but he has a job to do. He is responsible for testing contaminant levels in the environment in the places soldiers are bedding down keeping them protected from potential environmental threats. His uncle, Rev. Jean Frank Antoine, a minister is responsible for eight tent cities and an orphanage. His parishioners started showing up at his doorstep the night of the earthquake. He has gotten little aid, and almost no food for his flock. The tent cities he manages are housing over a thousand displaced people. The Haitians and the Americans are both mobilizing to create new lodgings anyway they can.
Before the 377th left I had a chance to get visit Carre Foure with Major Richards who was tasked to take photographs to be used in slide/information shows down the line. The devastation there was extreem. We got out of the car and wondered around. A local, Desire Pierre guided us up a mountain of rubble and pointed out how many people were lost in each totaled home. The smell of death permeated the air and we made sure not to step on human bones and us scattered around. We made out way around a corner to find a crowd at the site of theUniversity International of St. that collapsed. The only heavy lifting equipment in the area was there and in use. Many students gathered around waiting for their head master Louis Lacace Fils LaRosillieng’s body to be pulled out. Four hundred bodies are trapped in the rubble. Richard and I wondered around the side of the building where we found bodies decomposing in place. Louis Lacace Fils LaRosillieng, body was recovered and placed in a coffin. A sermon was given by pastor Pierre Eddy LaGuerre from Brooklyn who was born in Haiti. One Haitian body recovered, in front of me, how many more to go?
Next we drove to the National Stadium. The director, Ben Constant, of the stadium has turned it into a tent city. 1000 displaced families live there, over 6000 people. It is clean and organized and there are medical services on site. Different volunteer groups come and work in a make shift clinch there daily. Ben Constant has received a little rice for the people in the stadium, but that was days ago. He hopes the NGOs who are distributing food will send some his way. The stadium is full of life, kids playing on the Astroturf, and people getting on with their daily life.
While driving around the city, despite the devastation, my eyes are dazzled by the beautiful hand painted signs on the buildings and buses that are works of art. The buses are covered with decorative painting, either with a religous theme or one of celebrities. Juxtaposing Haitian street art are newly posted signs pleaded for help in French and English. The signs are simple pleas for the basics.” S.O.S” a sing reads, “We need water food and medicine”.
The Haitians I have spoken too have no faith in their government. They hope for change but spend their energy now on daily substance. Some are looking at the earthquake as a new beginning. Junior, the driver I went out with today told me if the government gets the aid money being donated to them, we the Haitian people will never get help. He hopes the Americans can instead proved services. He doesn’t believe that will happen but he thinks this time the people of Haiti will revolt if the movement keeps all the money. He believes there will be a revolution.
To see the soldiers of the 377 TSC watching the superbowl in a tent on the APOD click here
to see minister at the site of the university click here
Images- Top: Sign in Port-au-Prince, Marie Yolene Augustin (38) who lost six kids and her house now lives at the National Stadium. Natacha and Ceforah Parsonna at their tent in the National Stadium
Bottom: (top to bottom) Major Richards of the 377 TSC at the site of the university in Carre Foure, Child at National Stadium, Carre Foure landscape,
Recovery of headmaster of the university, Sing requesting help in Carre Foure, Rev. Jean Frank Antoine who runs eight tent cities in Port-au-Prince,
THe National Stadium now a tent city, Port-o-Pottys being moved on APOD, The APOD (base on the airport I’m staying at) at sunset.