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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Echo of Haiti

A Story from a friend - By George Wills (from citybizlist)

I'd like to share a memory of a young soldier 52 years ago in Haiti, the small country at the center of 2010's first natural catastrophe. Last week's magnitude-7 earthquake killed an estimated 200,000 people, left 250,000 injured and 1.5 million homeless.
My first trip as a newly commissioned naval officer 52 years ago included Haiti, where the USS Aldebaran entered Port au Prince in 1958. We were stationed there due to the threat of violence from dictator Duvalier whose control over this small impoverished island was absolute. As a small group of young officers walking along a street, we were confronted by a young woman shrieking as she carried a tiny baby: "For sale! No money! " Shaken, we all opened our pockets and handed over what must have totaled $50. Our words: "Keep your baby! Promise! Please!"
We never knew the outcome, but hope was that we may have helped a ravished mother and child stay together.
Now over five decades later,
Haiti faces a geometric increase in crisis caused by a monster earthquake. Millions of dollars are moving in a southward direction from individual U.S. pocketbooks, banks, and charitable foundations. The good side of people emerges through the fast response by thousands of people who are responding to a natural disaster's human crisis. Warning: Avoid phony fundraisers and be certain you are contributing to charitable organizations that are legitimate.
My lesson learned from that Haitian encounter: the unexpected can always be expected. That adage applies across the board, but other 2010 challenges are more complex than essential help of the kind provided by the threat of a poverty-stricken mother losing her child and the reality of thousands losing their lives.
As I caught the final moments of a network newscast that evening, I did a double-take as I glimpsed two familiar faces in a care center in Port au Prince, longtime friends and courageous fighters for the downtrodden, Dr. Carol Ritter and her husband Tom. Carol was valiantly speaking to the reporter, "Volunteers and caregivers are making a difference here in Haiti. We will help these people out of this tragedy." Carol and Tom are no strangers to this kind of relief work in central American poverty-stricken islands.
Ten years ago, Carol and I battled for doctors against lawsuit abuse inflicted upon the by Maryland trial lawyers, as well as some politicians misusing allegations of medical malpractice as a money machine. Both professionally and as a volunteer activist, I found Carol's dedication to medical care inspiring. The challenges remain, but her determined voice ended a day that began with a sad memory of a Haitian woman ready to sell a child to survive.

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