Friday, August 19, 2011

Isn't it amazing what 300 dollars can do?

On my last full day in Haiti, Dr. Franco held another med clinic in the morning. I interviewed Dr. Franco the day before about Haiti’s tent cities. After the earthquake, it was estimated more than one million people were left homeless. The result… numerous tent cities. According to Dr. Franco, living in a tent city is “hell on earth.” But on Thursday, we traveled to one of Port-au-Prince’s tent cities. They are rebuilding with small matching homes for each family. The mountains in the background were an incredible sight. Their church, a makeshift tent, was placed right in the middle of all the homes. We passed out peanut butter sandwiches and juice. People emerged from their homes, excited to have a free meal.

When we got back to the compound, everyone started preparing for the feeding that night. Dustin and I worked on finishing up our stories – set to air Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on the FOX CT Morning News. Hundreds of people lined-up outside of the compound. We lined all the tables up outside, filled plates with chicken and rice, and then let the children come to the table first. I looked at Dr. Franco and said, “This is just incredible.”

He replied, “Sarah, isn’t it amazing what 300 dollars can do?”

I agreed saying, “People buy outfits for 300 dollars.”

Dr. Franco said, “Yes they do, and 300 dollars can feed hundreds.”

I just watched as each person cleaned their plate, knowing that tonight these people won’t go to bed hungry.

Miakel followed me around all night. He kept saying, “Sarah… me… you… go to America?” My heart broke. I didn’t know how to handle it.

The next morning, I went into Miakel’s room where all the boys sleep. I gave him my pillow, and then placed the watch he wanted so badly on his wrist. His eyes barely opened, he looked at the watch, then looked up at me, smiled and said “thank you Sarah.”

As we drove away in the tap tap, all the boys waved goodbye. Some of the toddlers were crying. I tried to hold back my tears. My friend Sarah said, “Just remember… this is harder on them than it is on us.”

Once we got to the airport, Sarah and Joannie went to the American Airlines terminal. I was flying Continental. Dustin was on a Delta flight. Thank god we were in the same terminal because as we approached the entrance, the workers (who barely spoke English) told us we weren’t allowed inside until 10:30. It was 6:30. As we stepped away from the gate, Haitian men started surrounding me, trying to sell me things. They were grabbing me, yelling at each other. I was petrified and felt completely helpless. All of a sudden, Dustin grabbed my arm. He had paid-off one of the workers to let us inside. Once we were in, we were told not to get in line until 10:30. So we sat there for four hours, packed like sardines in this little room. There were no lines at check-in, and people were just screaming at each other. It was a nightmare. There was a lot of waiting. Once they finally opened the Continental line, which was really no line at all – we waited another hour. Dustin went to the other side of the room for the Delta line. They pushed us back and finally set up a table to check bags. Then a lady came through and took some people’s passports, but not others. Mine was one she took. I started to panic, thinking what an idiotic move that was… giving this woman my passport. I was watching people get their boarding passes and leave. I finally just pushed my way to the front (this was the time to be aggressive). I said, “I need my passport!” The lady just said “bag.” So I grabbed my bag, which the security guy had already gone through and put to the side. He tried to stop me, but I grabbed it anyway and brought it to the lady who took my passport. She weighed it, checked-it, then finally gave me my boarding pass and passport. Makes no sense at all, but when I finally got to my gate, I was relieved. Getting on the airplane was amazing. The seat was the most comfortable thing I’d been in all week. I closed my eyes and fell asleep before takeoff.

This week on the FOX CT Morning News, you’ll see three stories that I did in Haiti with Dustin. They are set to air Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.