Today, I returned from my trip to Haiti in the aftermath of last week's devastating 7.3-magnitude earthquake.
I have traveled to Haiti more than 15 times, often during moments of crisis or national emergency, but I have never seen destruction and displacement on this scale. At the same time, the resilience of the Haitian people and the heroism of local and international first responders inspire us all.
On Sunday, the Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue Team rescued a two-year-old girl who had been buried under the rubble for five days. Here is video footage of the rescue from my iPhone:
The girl's father (wearing the yellow shirt) witnessed his daughter's removal from the debris. It was an incredible moment to watch a father get his daughter back and hold her once again. This little girl symbolizes the indomitable spirit of the Haitian people. She is the future of Haiti.
The girl's rescue reminds my South Florida constituents, including many Haitian Americans who have been hit hard by the earthquake, that even in the darkest hour, hope still endures. Some have called me in desperation on three-way calling with family members caught in the middle of the disaster. The earthquake has also propelled my community to act as never before by collecting donations, volunteering time and expertise, and offering support and prayers to neighbors in need. My constituents and the Haitian people are in pain, but I want them to know that there are stories of hope like this across their native land.
Last weekend, I bought a one-way commercial airline ticket to Santo Domingo and traveled with a local driver through the night to Haiti, arriving as the sun rose at Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince. My goal was to survey the relief efforts and figure out how best to respond to the disaster.
Nothing prepared me for the death and destruction, but my job now is to make sure Congress and the Administration work as hard as possible to save lives and bring much needed relief to Haiti. The stakes are simply too high and too many lives hang in the balance. Furthermore, my home state of Florida would be the first to feel the effects of the disaster if we fail to address the humanitarian crisis swiftly and effectively.
Haiti will not return to normal anytime soon, but the United States will do its part to support and rebuild Haiti, as Secretary Clinton so clearly said, "today, tomorrow, and for the time ahead."