I spent about 2 1/2 weeks in Haiti covering the destruction and recovery in the aftermath of the Jan. 12th earthquake. Traveling across the city of Port-Au-Prince, I saw destroyed buildings, countless numbers of bodies trapped in the rubble, and a homeless population that tripled in a matter of seconds.
I was in a field hospital, set up by the 82nd Airborne at a country club in Petionville, when I noticed a little girl, sitting quietly in a wheel chair, waiting to be seen for damages to her arm. The scars on her legs and on her scalp speak to a hard life lived well before the earthquake made it harder. She can walk, but not very well due to previous injuries to her legs, but the wheel chair is a temporary gift from the medics. When she leaves the hospital, she must leave the chair. She lives down the hill from the field hospital, where an 18-hole golf course used to be, along with more than 35,000 earthquake survivors. Thousands of make shift tents, houses made from blankets tied to sticks, sit side by side in an aide subsidized ghetto. Her mother, I discovered through an interpreter, was killed in the quake and she has no idea where he father is. She lives with her grandmother in a tent by the road, a poorer area in the tent city.
Walking through the tent city, the first thing you notice, if you are looking for it, is the resilience of the survivors. It is too easy to focus on the destruction and the lack of aide. It is too easy to forget that for many people in this country, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, the struggle for basic needs started well before the earthquake hit. Resiliency is not a trait that can be taught or given out of the back of an aide truck. Neighbors cooking meals for neighbors, people using bar batteries and electrical outlets to make cell phone chargers, men carrying patients on stretchers up the hill to the hospital. It is what we want to see, and have seen, in ourselves in time of struggle.