The next morning, before the sun had risen, we abandoned our luggage and piled ourselves into the back of a pick-up truck. Our flight would arrive some time around 8:30 AM.
We were uncomfortably crammed into the truck, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything. I was still miserably upset about leaving.
In the dark morning dawn we drove past piles and piles of bodies and rubble, the smell was potent. I buried my nose and mouth into my arm, but kept my vision out the back of the truck. My watery eyes continued to squeeze tears out onto the dusty, bloody roads. It felt like I was crying out little pieces of myself to stay with Haiti always.
The airport was calm for most of those wee hours, but around 7 AM the people came out. There was even less communication between airport officials, what little there were, and the stressed crowd of evacuation hopefuls. Emotions were escalating at an alarming pace.
The whole time we were receiving informational text messages from our point person back home; pilot’s name, tail number, ect. We were instructed to wait for the pilot to come out of the airport doors to call for us, and that’s how we were going to negotiate the human blockade at the airport entrance.
At 8:35 AM we received a text that they weren’t letting our pilot leave the plane, and that we needed to get to him quick or he would leave us. Then the pushing started. Our group moved like an amoeba in a river of blood cells, squeezing, pleading, always pushing forward. We were making people angry, you could hear it in their voices, see it in their eyes.
The men at the door, two college-age guys in t-shirts and jeans, stopped us flat. They didn’t speak English. That’s when our group’s desperate mom began hysterically pleading and crying with the door man. Somehow 3 members of our group pushed their way through the men, which in turn made them very combative with those of us that remained outside the entrance. The crowd at our back was becoming more and more excited. I was dodging fists and body slams left and right, willing my feet to stay planted lest I be trampled.
My mom also pushed through somehow, and that’s when things went from strained to out-of-control. My mom became violent with the doorman that wasn’t letting me through, grabbing at his arm to try and free me. I was pleading “monsieur! c’est mon mere!” “Sir, that’s my mother!”
I could see he wanted to let me through, but was calculating what the crowd behind me was going to do in reaction. My mother persisted and because they refused to get violent with a woman, my mom’s strong-arming pulled me through, but Vern, the pastor from Houston in our group, was still on the other side. “Mom, we have to get Vern!” I screamed. She had become completely crazed. She yanked me forward through the aiport. “Vern’s a grown man, you’re a child!” Really? I thought I was 23 and there’s no way in hell we were leaving anyone behind. None the less i was coerced out onto the tarmac.
We saw Vicki and Surpris, but Michelle had long since started running up to any small plane to see if it was our plane. Surpris was adamant that we go back for Vern, as we all were, accept for my now she-gorilla of a mother. That’s when we saw Vern walking towards us from inside the airport. We were so relieved. Vern explained to us that he had simply reasoned with the men, explained that he was a pastor searching for his group, and most likely the 6 ft. 5 in that Vern carries around with him didn’t hurt either. Amazing, here we had all thrashed our way through, and Godly Vern had reasoned his was through. I started to feel sick again.
Who knows what kind of mayhem we had left in our wake after tussling with the guards. Now, our group was wondering aimlessly throughout the tarmac, crossing paths with U.S. black hawks and air force carriers. I guess the U.S. presence had finally arrived, along with medical supplies that were sitting idle in the hangers. The supply bottleneck problem was visible to us at that point.
Finally we found a plane similar to the description in our bank of text messages. It was clear that some in our group didn’t care whether it was “our” plane or not, they were getting on that plane. My mom and I resisted, re-iterating that we were not going to take another person’s plane. Luckily, it was our plane, someone had given us the wrong tail number but we were on the manifest.
It was surreal. It was actually a gorgeous day and we were sitting on the green grass near the plane, waiting to board.
We said a quick prayer for all the people we may have incited outside the airport entrance, and just took in the scene around us while waiting to get on the small charter plane.
From there we boarded the plane, and began the long trek back to Austin via Santo Domingo, Miami and Houston.
- U.S. carrier bringing soldier and aide into PAP airport.