Haiti Relief Mission Journal – From Texas to Haiti
February 14, 2010
With the porter pushing our supply cartons, I walked out of the inspection hall and found the team. Tammy, Sue, Lori, Leslie and Zig. Sitting on the floor all looking very worried but finally relieved to see me. Zig was concerned that US customs was aling about him. The Air Canada agent had waited with the others for the entire hour that we were seperated. Now she helped us get our gear to the loading carousel. The supervisor of baggage met us and stopped everyone else form loading their luggage. All of our stuff went on the belt together. He then went downstairs to make sure everything made it to our flight correctly.
She took us to the lounge and introduced us to the staff at the desk. We had become minor celebrities at the airport. Our flight was late because of weather in Dallas and we didn’t leave until 10:30 pm.
We arrived in Dallas at 1:30 am. All of our supplies made it safely. It was cold in Dallas. They had just recieved 6 inches of snow. That was the most in Dallas’ recorded history. It appeared this was going to be a trip of firsts.
Dr. Hobar and his wife Robin met us at the airport in two large SUVs, packed up our boxes and took us to their home. Robin had prepared coffee, tea and cookies. Dr. Ale Michell is Dr Hobar’s fellow and she met us at the house. We began to discuss the logistics of what we were about to face in Haiti. Dr. Hobar saw the need for reconstructive plastic surgery in developing countries and founded LEAP. He was in Haiti 4 days after the earthquake. Kindness is not a big enough word to describe the man. Generous, selfless, visionary. He and Ale gave us lists of who we would meet and how we would navigate the complex chaos of a relief operation.
Something about this meeting in the Hobar’s family room in the middle of the night struck me as so strange. Dr. Hobar was smiling. At first I thought it was a bit like a parent watching a child who was about to open a birthday present. But no, that’s not quite right. Not so joyous. More like a teacher with a student about to learn a great truth. He looked at us the way you would if you knew your friend was about to make a great discovery about the world, a great discovery about ourselves.
At 3am we left for the air field where we would catch our private plane. Relief flights land at Port-au-Prince 24 hours a day. Apparently you call a secret 800 number that no one ever answers. Eventually when you get through a US Air Force officer tells you a landing spot is impossible. After much pleading and cajolling we are given a 10 minute window to land that requires us to leave at 4am.
The Cessna Citation V was waiting for us on the Tarmac. Mr. Bob Bilinghampton is a larger than life Texan who not only lent us his plane, but who was personally going to fly us down. We loaded up, strapped in and took off for the first leg to Ft. Lauderdale to refuel. Somewhere over the the dark southern U.S. Bob came back to check on us. I told him how generous it was for him to donate his plane and fly us. “No” he said, “I’m just flying, you guys are the heroes. “