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Richard Morse

Richard Morse

Posted: January 21, 2010 10:05 AM

Haiti: My Experience on the Ground

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Several days before the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, I received a visit from a man who told me that if I stopped blogging for six months then perhaps my hotel would be removed from the "Red Zone." The man was in charge of security for another man, who has at times has worked with InterPol, and the U.S. Government. He is currently in the police business. I was at a loss for what to do.

No more blogging? I knew "they" they would come. I had been antagonizing them. I just didn't know "who" would come. Being put in the Red Zone is a way of putting you out of business. It's an attempt to keep people away from your place of business. People were being directed to the Montana Hotel. The United Nations and the OAS had done so much business with the Montana Hotel in the last 15 years that it grew from a 40 room hotel to a 110 room hotel with large conference centers, apartments, stores and restaurants. My Red Zone status over the last decade meant that I could barely afford to paint my hotel.

I started lashing out. I started talking about "regime change" meetings in Washington and I started mentioning names of people complicit in the corruption known as Haiti's day-to-day existence. I wasn't going to push my luck once I received the "do not blog" visit, so I asked my daughter to help me set up a Twitter account (@RAMhaiti) so i could tell people where my band was playing. The RAMhaiti site would be strictly musical and non political. I started the site around the 6th or 7th of January and by Tuesday the 12th of January I had about 40 followers.

Tuesday afternoon I was sitting in Room 20 of my Oloffson Hotel watching television. Oddly, the television began to sway back and forth. I didn't want to lose the television so I summoned my strength, stood up and assumed the surfing position. As I leaned forward to grab the television, the television seemed to lean back out of my reach. As the television moved towards me, I was forced to lean back. Why was I surfing in the middle of Room 20? Fifteen seconds into this surf dance I began to suspect that I was perhaps in the midst of an earthquake. Once again I summoned all my strength and lunged toward the television. I grabbed it and I felt I could save it but the earthquake seemed to shift into a higher gear.

The television then dove for the glass top table beneath and the table top shattered, exploded, cutting my right forefinger. With the glass explosion, the world came to a halt. I still couldn't quite grasp what was going on. I looked at my finger, thick red blood. I headed out the door. I couldn't see the eight-story building that stood behind the Oloffson, known as the Castel Haiti. It was hiding (so i thought) behind a cloud of white dust.

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus" was being shouted out in Creole. I looked to my left and three of my staff were waving their hands in the air and calling Jesus to come save them. Some people pray when things are going bad. I try and pray before things go bad. This didn't seem like the time to call Jesus. I headed to the house to find my wife, daughter and son. Everyone was okay though there were big holes in the wall of our home. As though suddenly realizing what had just happened, both my wife and daughter began to scream and cry. I rushed to my wife and hugged her tight trying to absorb the fear and grief away from her body.

I didn't know it then but the Castel Haiti was gone. The National Palace was gone, The United Nations Headquarters was gone, the Taxation building, gone, most of the government for that matter, was destroyed. The Montana Hotel, gone. Thousands of homes belonging to Haitians throughout the cities of Port au Prince, Leogane and Jacmel among others, gone. The Notre Dame Cathedral, gone, St. Gerard Church, gone. Sacred Heart Church, St. Anne Church, gone.

That night, I went to my RAMhaiti Twitter site and I began to tell my forty followers what I saw, what I witnessed and what I thought. I'm not a journalist. I'm a musician/innkeeper. I hope to give you a slice of Haiti and perhaps we can either watch as Haiti rises from the dust cloud or we can watch as aid to Haiti does what it always seems to do, which is to enter into a big metaphorical stomach to be digested by the juices of corruption.

 

Follow Richard Morse on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RAMhaiti