Chapter 2 “Haiti Forever”
When I left off we were just about to taxi down the runway.
The people on this flight are very special. Every single Air Canada employee, from the flight attendants to the Air Canada COO Duncan Dee, as well as the freight handlers and the security, as well as the pilots, are very, very senior Air Canada staff, and have all volunteered for this flight. The fact that they actually had breakfast on board and served it, was a bit surreal, but the scheduled flight (which was supposed to be 4 hours and 15 minutes) went by quickly. We all got to know each other and like always, in a tragedy, people seem to move past their personal issues in life and share the meaningful things.
One of the Captains looks like Captain Sully from the flight that landed in the water in New York. The pilots seem well in control and this is comforting.
During the flight I was fortunate to spend some time speaking to COO Duncan Dee, who gave me the history of Air Canada’s philanthropic endeavours. They were the first commercial flight into Katrina and spent days shuttling evacuations from New Orleans to Texas. 16 flights. Their passion for using their airline as a first respondent is not widely known.
The OnexOne water being unloaded in Haiti
There are two Montreal police officers on the flight who are here to help with the passengers who will be returning to Montreal, and many of them have been stranded. One of the officers –Claude – is a very decorated officer, and has made many missions to various areas of the world as a representative of the Montreal police force. He spent 9 months in Haiti right before the flights. He spent a lot of time preparing us for the passengers and what he believes will be their psychological condition – and that we should be ready to be there for them. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of that. I haven’t watched much television because I am scared to see the devastation. I spent time (along with many of you and especially James) consumed with the logistics of this operation and maybe hiding a bit from the real realities of what is going on. This is OK. I feel I will do everything I can to help those coming on board and give them the comfort, that millions of people around the world have come together to help them.
There is a flight attendant on the plane. His name is Paggy. He is Haitian and I can feel the anxiety rising in him as we approach our destination. I have given our OneXOne coordinates because his uncle runs an orphanage and they have no water, so I am hoping we start to look at some of these small organizations as recipients of our big hearts. A little will go a long way. I feel tremendous empathy for this young man because it is easy to see he is profoundly affected and really not ready to face what he is about to face.
There are people on the plane from Foreign Affairs who are coming down to assess the Canadian Embassy and its ability to stand. It is badly damaged and they have brought Engineers. They seem very introspectiveand are preparing themselves for a difficult time; they should be here for some time.
There is an organization from Montreal who have 19 pallets of aid on board that they plan to distribute. They will stay on the ground and hope to return home on the next humanitarian flight by Air Canada, which should be Tuesday.
Dr. Lambert of Partner in Health is on the flight. He has the most spectacular smile and really a tremendous positive perspective. He is happy to be coming home and thrilled that we have filled much of his requests vis-a-vis medical supplies. He feels confident that there will be PIH personnel on the ground (my fingers are crossed).
We were scheduled to land at approximately 11 am but we have been circling for the last 90 minutes and we finally just got clearance to land. There were approximately 10 planes trying to land, most of them without a slot time, making everything more confusing, more stressful and less efficient. This is where philanthropy becomes a hindrance. For every minute humanitarian aid circles around, that is extra time that people are suffering. Air Canada got a slot, because the FAA, in part, remembered their incredible work in Katrina. We are landing and everyone here is ready and anticipating the worst, hoping for the best.
The plane is full of help, even all our bottled water, which I had no idea were all under the seats of the entire plane (I have an amazing picture which I will send you all).
The wheels came down – we are landing.
We just landed. I am feeling very anxious but happy. I will keep everyone posted as best as I can, but there are goods to unload and I intend to do my part
I think what is difficult is being alone without some of you here, but let’s keep communicating and thanks Edward – the BB is clearly working like a champ.
Love you all miss you all.
“Hope Belongs to Everyone”