Rich Pickett is SDSU’s CIO and a licensed pilot for 32 years. He is volunteering his time to fly relief flights to earthquake ravaged Haiti and will be sharing his experiences here as often as he is able …
Some of the local people we are helping wanted us to visit their neighborhoods and families. We spent 2 hours walking the streets of Jacmel. The Haitians are resilient and are striving to have some semblance of normalcy amidst collapsed buildings still containing large number of their relatives and friends, and with very little to eat and virtually no shelter. One young man was singing a song about the earthquake on the top of a collapsed building that was the tomb for 20 of his family and friends. The multistory house was reduced to 6 or 7 feet in height. One hundred people may congregate when others are working to make meals, however there may only be enough for 40-50 of them to get a small portion.
Pierre, one of our new friends who met us at the airport, now lives with is family in a 6 foot x 8 foot ‘area’ with dirt and cardboard floor and a minimal shelter of thin plastic in a tent city of thousands that we visited. His kids came up and hugged me which brought tears to my eyes. We purchased some local handcrafts, which was important for these proud people who want to feel they are contributing, not just asking for money.
The Canadians are guarding the airport, however we went by ourselves into the city since they didn’t want to join us. During the time, I never was concerned of my safety and felt at home with the Haitians. I know that some resources helped in the past several weeks, however there were no visible signs of general assistance in the neighborhoods.
People would politely ask me for tents, food for their children, etc. We promised Pierre and a few others that we would find them tents and blankets when we return tomorrow from Florida, along with a large X-Ray machine that was donated to the clinic in Jacmel with a stop in Les Cayes with more supplies.
The air space was a bit chaotic, filled with planes (many of which are privately owned and flown) bringing supplies to Haiti. After catching up on SDSU work tonight, it is now time to flight plan for tomorrow arrange for fuel and work with friends to find the necessary supplies for an early flight.
Three of the people on our plane were Aztecs, including one person we dropped off at Jacmel who is volunteering his time. It is always heartwarming to be so far from home, yet run into graduates of SDSU.