Dear practically everyone,
First of all, thank you for all your heartfelt messages on Facebook and email. I
read them all, and it really touches me. It reminds me that I do not live in a
vacuum, and that the world is watching - apparently with dedicated interest,
everything that is happening on this tiny, and now truly, god-forsaken island.
It is hard for me to respond to you all, because I don't have much time, and we
have very limited computer access - and I am spending most of my time trying to
get the material we are filming out to the world.
But rest assured, I am fine. Tired of course, a bit undernourished, but I have
enough water and a more or less stable place to sleep. I am right next to the
airport, and if evacuations are necessary, then I am in a good place for that.
I want to tell you a little of what has happened to me, and what I have seen -
only because I am realizing that many of you are struggling to picture how life
is for us - for me - and you want to know that I am ok.
Essentially, the entire world here changed in a matter of about 45 seconds. I
went to work on Tuesday morning with a strapless maternity dress on that my
sister gave me, and little pumps and a red bead necklace. At 4:48 I was calmly
sitting at my computer, thinking about going home soon. I had just been talking
through the door that splits my office with my cameraman's office, Blago, about
leaving in the next 20 minutes. And I hear this noise that I thought was a
really huge bumbly truck coming down the driveway by my office. So I stood up to
see the truck - I mean, what kind of vehicle makes a noise like that really? And
as I walked to the window, my brain computed that the building was vibrating,
then swinging wildly from side to side. I wasn't scared, I was just perplexed,
and trying to remember what to do in a situation like that - is it "hide under
the desk" or "run outside". For some reason, I thought it was "stand in a door
jam" so I was trying to get to the door of the building, which is 7 feet from my
office. And I kept falling, and Blago was behind me, and I fell, and he laid on
top of me to cover me - I guess he thought the answer was "lay on your colleague
in an earthquake". And our other colleagues were behind us, one of them, crazy
Logan the camera man who runs boot camp classes in his free time, was bounding
down the hall, bouncing off walls and screaming "GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!" He
grabbed Blago by the neck and somehow I found myself falling down our front
steps, landing on our car which had crashed into our building. and then we were
all kneeling on the pavement, rubbing our eyes. The shaking stopped. Then
started again. And someone said "where is our headquarters?" Because all we
could see was dust. No sunlight, no buildings, no thing more than 4 feet in
It took us more than 20 minutes to verify that our 6 story headquarters were no
longer there. It's the type of thing that just does not compute. New Yorkers
will understand this after Sept 11 - the building is supposed to be there, and
you look to see it, but your brain can't figure out why it's not there.
In the shantytown outside our offices, the fates were the same. We sat huddled
in the parking lot of our HQ, in the dark, listening to tens of thousands of
people scream and cry and wail. Wail. I mean really, like a tide. And every time
there were tremors and aftershocks, the hills moaned in panic and fear.
I sat there for five hours, and wondered if my family knew what was happening. I
know they listen to NPR while making dinner, and was picturing what they were
doing when the news broke. And I was wondering how the news would break, because
we had no power, no cell phones, no nothing. And people were wondering about the
other islands. Was there a tsunami? What? At around 11pm, I found a person in
the lot with a small transistor radio. He was listening to Radio France
International, which was reporting a massive earthquake in Haiti, epicenter in
Port-au-Prince. Good god, I thought, is God really trying to finish this little
island - I mean, how much more can it take? It seemed to unfair that Haiti had
to take this on. And it was surreal that we were sitting in the center of the
mess, and couldn't know what was going on - we had to listen to news reporting
from Paris, that was getting their information from CBS in America. very
bizarre. Me sitting there in my strapless maternity dress and heels, smudged
with dirt and mud, sitting with my knees up and thinking of my family. And I
really was regretting my choice of wardrobe in that moment.
I spent the night watching the rescue operations. Which were very sparse. It's
hard to pull people out of hundreds of tons of concrete. Maybe they pulled 10
people out, and we struggled to see the faces. Is it anyone I know? Please be
one of ours. I sat with a colleague whose husband was missing, and whose 1 year
old boy was in her 4th story apartment in the hills above the city. She was
stone-faced and silent, eyes wide watching the rubble. She was able to get home
and rescue her child at 2am, her husband's whereabouts are still unknown.
We are just now beginning to understand who is not showing up, whose faces have
been absent in the little recovery area we've set up in the logistics base by
the airport. This is where I am now. It's an awful experience. To know that the
people that you meet for coffee, the ones you say hi to at parties and bars, the
ones you have stupid arguments with over email about catty, dumb shit - that
suddenly those very people could be dead. Or worse, trapped in a small space,
without air, in pain.
I think many of us get by right now on these things. First, the notion that "I
survived". I survived. I am still alive. That building came down, and by some
miracle, I'm still here. So I better be happy about it and not waste it because
many people are not so lucky. And second, "there is very important work to do".
There is - tons of it. Tons of rock to be moved, tons of people to be saved,
tons of bodies to be picked up, tons of food to be handed out - and water. And
for me, tons of TV to be sent out to the world. So we throw ourselves into these
things, with gusto. It's better than sitting around waiting, and feeling
helpless. And last, "miracles do happen". One of the security officers - a guy
who would have been on the team that Eduardo was to join next week - was stuck
under the rubble somewhere on what used to be the 4th floor. He could talk on
his radio. He was awake, stuck in a hole. And the workers couldn't get to him -
there was 2 meters of concrete between him and them, constant tremors, and too
many fears of dislodging the whole mountain of stuff to get to him. But finally,
today, after nearly 48 hours without food and water, he walked free from the
debris, unscathed. And promptly resigned from the UN - who can blame him? When
we heard this, many of us cried. "Thank you god - and please let this happen
So a few more details, and then I go. I am sleeping on the floor in the
logisitics base - outside actually, because nobody really feels that comfortable
being indoors and asleep. We all have a reflex to stay near exits now. I have my
yoga mat and a sheet. I'm ok. I work all day, feeding TV material to
braodcasters. Our camera people go out in the field, I am the one who gets the
tape, edits it, and sends it off via internet. We have rationed water, and one
MRE (meal ready to eat) per day, and we scrounge around for other snacks. So far
I am fine. And with the international crews coming in, I am sure we will get
more food and help very soon.
The city is... well. I don't really know how to describe it. It's sort of like
everyone you know - EVERYONE - getting into a serious car accident on the same
day, at the same time. Some come out without a scratch, and others - don't. Many
of my colleagues lost everything. Some lost children, others a husband or wife.
Logan lost his entire apartment and everything inside it. Me - in the face of
all that - I am doing pretty darn well! And very thankful that Eduardo was not
here when this happened. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't find him.
I thank you all again for your love and messages, I read them all, every one,
and they give me a happy sort of feeling in this sad dark place. So keep us in
your prayers. Donate money or - something - to a valid humanitarian
organization. And keep in touch with me, I love hearing from you. I send all my
love, I am sorry I can't write more, please don't worry, I am safe.
Causes Louise Young Supports
articulation of indigenous rights (organization: Cultural Survival)
sustainable, renewable, and independent energy sources