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 …
We loaded up the plane early today for our first flight of the day. We needed to take tents, medical supplies, food and of course toys to Les Cayes and Port Au Prince. We were put in contact with Navy personnel, through Professor Eric Frost at SDSU, who needed to 300 pounds of emergency communication gear to be moved to Port au Prince since their other transportation plans didn’t materialize. Glen Berndt, who is volunteering his own time, brought an amazing amount of sophisticated equipment on board.
Our first stop was Les Cayes where we distributed a large amount of medical supplies to a local clinic and distributed tarps, food and the items we purchased the night before. We ran out of tents in the warehouse, however we had canopy frames without covers. We took as many tarps as we could so the folks could at least have some shelter. The kids loved the toys, and we were able to talk with Dr. Legar and his colleagues about their clinic.
We departed to Port Au Prince to deliver Glen and the equipment. After landing and unloading the communications equipment we distributed the remaining tarps, canopy frame and toys to Stacy. We wish that we had thousands of tarps and tents, since many people are without shelter. On a previous flight we provided Stacy and Dr. Bonnell with toys for the kids. Stacey mentioned that she distributed balls and other toys in one of the refugee camps. She noticed that a boy dropped the ball. She turned to look and discovered that he dropped it because both of his lower arms were amputated. He dropped the ball and started juggling it with his feet. We hugged and talked about how resilient the Haitian people are! I told her we will bring more soccer balls, so other children and adults can play, with or without their arms.
We learned that physicians from Harvard, and Brad Barker of the Halo Corp who works with SDSU’s Dr. Eric Frost on several disasters, needed a ride back to the States. Just before loading everyone into the plane, an Army officer approached me and asked if we could take a soldier home. With everyone on board it was back to Florida, navigating around the thunderstorms and landing back in Florida at 12 a.m. Due to Superbowl we had to clear US Customs at Palm Beach, then load everyone back in the plane and head for Fort Lauderdale Executive.