Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dispatches: Haiti Flight 1291

Photo: Passengers on board flight 1291 try to get a glimpse of Port Au Prince from the air as the plane slowly descends.

At 35,000 feet, the plane fell silent. The hum of a jet engine filled the cabin as children slept, mothers and fathers sat there staring into the abyss as if the seat in front of them held their fortune. To my left, a lady sat there twitching her thumb, head held low—neither asleep nor really awake. Rays of light spilled through the windows, glistened off her dark—velvet skin, casting a reflective stroke of light off the contours of her face.

Every now and then I’d catch her peeking at my watch, wondering how much longer until we land. The plane would veer left, then slightly right, slowly descend and gradually climb again. She’d turn to her left, look out the window and realize that we’ve yet to push past the clouds that enveloped our plane. A few minutes later, she’d return her eyes to my watch—counting every second that went by.

Flight 1291 wasn’t just another flight for me—and neither was it for the 200 or so Haitians returning home for the first time after the quake. For Silvia, this was her first trip back since leaving as a child.

Looking into her eyes, I can see her fear, sorrow and the unknown. Asked if she was excited to finally be home, she softly replied, “no,” paused, and silently turned her head the other way.

Flight attendants passed out snack-boxes of cookies and juice, but few had even opened their box. Looking over to Silvia, I saw her packing hers away—perhaps saving it for a loved one.

It’s hard to explain the emotions on flight 1291. Perhaps, it’s unexplainable. But sitting there, looking at Silvia, listening to the deafening hum of utter silence, every emotion I had ever felt in my life felt incomparable to that of hers.

Sometimes, words just can't explain.

Blogger Note: I'm currently safe in Port Au Prince. My team and I are staying at a safe house, but due to the structural damage of this building, we're forced to sleep in tents in the compound. The whole 2nd floor is gone, and the rubble is thrown all over. Driving to the safe house, tents can be seen as far as the eye can see. Tomorrow morning I will venture into the epicenter of the quake. For status updates and mobile picture uploads, please feel free to add me on Facebook.


Lorna said...

Sobering post, Ron. Keep documenting the reality of what people are experiencing. Be safe, be well.

Vera said...

Echoing what Lorna said, Ron. Sitting having my lunch in front of my PC, feeling a little wearied by the ongoing cold weather, wondering when it would warm up, had a moment to catch up with my favourite blogs. Yours was the first. And I was moved to tears: For those people on the land, and for those people in the air.
I don't mind that my toes are freezing, or that I am sitting wrapped up in loads of layers of clothes, at least I am safe and so are my loved ones.
Thankyou for the post.It stopped me from feeling sorry for myself, and for that I really, really, do thank you.

Deboshree said...

Ron Ron Ron...sobering yes, hits the reality in our face, yes.I doubt we can actually feel what Sylvia and the other innumerable people on that flight have gone through.

But you are doing a great job Ron and keep at it! You bring the truth to us and I am thankful to you for that.

Keep us posted and be safe.

Much love,

The Rambler said...

This post...brings you to reality.

I don't have the right words sometimes to express how much your posts really move me. To different places.

I pray for your safety while there.