At Barth’s request I had recruited a team to visit Haiti to see the situation firsthand and assess what we might do. The team consisted of 23 doctors and nurses, most of them faculty members at the University of Miami. In addition to Barth and myself, the doctors in the group included Lynn, chair of family medicine; Michel and Henri, two Haitian-American faculty members also from family medicine; Ron, the Haitian-American director of our radiology residency program; and Jackie, University of Miami alumna who directed Miami’s public health department. On the nursing side, Diane, dean of the University’s school of nursing, and Lydia, one of her faculty members, were interested in international nursing from an academic perspective. Their scholarly approach to the problems faced by Haiti’s nurses was balanced by the practicality of Ruth, the head nurse of Miami’s homeless clinic. Junia, my assistant, and some photo and video journalists Barth had recruited from the Miami Herald and our local Channel 10 rounded out the group.
During the flight down, Danny T. visited each row of members of our group and gave instructions:
“Stay together. Pay no attention to requests to take your bags, even if someone looks like they are in some kind of uniform. And above all, don’t submit to the temptation of giving something to people begging, especially the children. It will start in the airport parking lot, and if you give to one, you will have to give to everyone. Then you will have nothing left. Be prepared for an assault on your senses. Haiti is a land of contrasts.”
As we flared over the runway, rows of U.S. Army helicopters came into view, along with groups of U.S. soldiers and their equipment. “It looks like we are flying into a war zone,” someone murmured.
We exited the plane and descended the portable ramp to the tarmac. We were immediately hit by a blast of heat and wind. The trade winds spilled over the mountains to the east and rolled across a broad plain toward the Bay of Port-au-Prince. Impressive mountain