A heartfelt thank-you from Haiti
By Philippe Clérié,
As I write this, it has been 10 days since the earthquake of Port-au-Prince. The international response has been nothing short of phenomenal. The search-and-rescue operation is beginning to wind down now, and the teams carrying that out will soon be sent home. I cannot claim to write in the name of the Haitian people; that’s President René Préval’s job and privilege, even if he sometimes does not seem to understand that. But I do want to thank the people of the Washington region, and all the world, for their help and care during this catastrophe.
I have spent the past few days serving as a guide and interpreter for a rescue task force from Fairfax County. I have seen their dedication and their eagerness to go looking for survivors. I have seen their persistence when searching, their insistence on following every possible lead in an effort to save lives, despite all the frustrations, particularly with transportation problems and the horrendous traffic jams. I want to thank all the team members for their dedication and their courage. I thank Fairfax County and the governor of Virginia for allowing them to come, the president of the United States for asking them to come, and the people of the United States for being so generous.
The Fairfax rescuers were considerate, patient, caring. When we were idle, waiting for an assignment, there always were several people who would ask me if I needed anything. Water? A meal? And there were those moments when they would come up to thank me. All I did, really, was say: “Turn right,” “Turn left” and “Go straight” at the proper time. And yet they would thank me for helping. It was horribly embarrassing, considering all that they were doing. What I did was the least I could do. Literally. That was the only thing I was qualified for. And that hurt, because I so wished I could do more.
I hope more Haitians will come forward and in turn be generous with their thanks. Every single individual who left his or her normal life to come to Haiti deserves every bit of thanks we can give. It feels like it’s about the only thing we have left to give.
Thank you, Fairfax.
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