By James Addis in Port-au-Prince.
The last time I was deployed to a humanitarian emergency, I had no wife and no children. This time I have a wonderful wife, Sharon, a daughter, Nicole, 3, and a young son, Michael, 6 months.
In previous emergencies, I never got homesick. Now the tug of home hits more powerfully than ever. I keep needing to pull myself together: For goodness sake, man, you have only been here a few days.
It’s not only missing the family, of course. The heat, the smell of sickness and despair, the tragic stories that one hears, it all makes one long for peace and tranquility, familiar faces, the comforts of home—a strong cup of coffee, taken at leisure and not in a mad rush.
Yesterday, I attended our first distributions of relief aid to the homeless—biscuits, health kits, clothes, and bottled water. I chatted to people waiting patiently in the lines. They all have a story.
One woman was trapped for days, hugging her infant son. She says she spent most of the time praying. Another woman, Gina Jean, was pulled from the rubble almost immediately. Bewildered, she ended up sitting in a street full of screaming people. When she eventually composed herself, and was able to thank God that she was still alive and that her children had also got out. Then she was struck by a fresh fear: what about her husband at work?
He has not been seen since the events of Tuesday. Gina has since checked the local hospitals, without success. If things were not bad enough, she now lives on a patch of ground with her two children. One of them is only 4 months old. The other is 10. A few strung-up bed sheets and a washing line hung with clothes are their protection from the sun. These things amount to home at the moment. “It is shameful for my children to have to live like this,” she says.
Soon I expect I will be able to go home and be reunited with my family. One can only guess what the future holds for Gina.