The images are unforgettable. Injured children screaming in pain while doctors explain amputation procedures to parents, countless bodies piled in the street decomposing as the living pass by with hardly a glance, the desperate wandering in search of a morsel of food or a sip of water that might sustain them for one more day, mass graves and looters taking what they can carry. Meanwhile international supplies and personnel are stymied on the ground, unable by politics or logistics to get to where they are needed most.
Even in the best of times, Haiti was no island paradise. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it lies less than 600 miles from U.S. shores — but it lags light years in terms of infrastructure and economy — and that was before last Tuesday’s earthquake.
It’s hard to imagine a silver lining to a tragedy that has claimed upwards of what estimates say will be in excess of 100,000 lives, but if we are looking for a reason for hope in the midst of this tragedy, it is this — the world’s eyes are now focused on a country in dire need of our help. People who may have never even bee able to locate Haiti on a map before have this week witnessed the abject poverty and lack of opportunity that has long plagued the island. And they have also seen the beauty and spirit of the Haitian people as they express their utmost thanks and appreciation for the big miracles — like a survivor pulled free from a crushed building — and the small —like a bottle of clean water to drink.
There are many good people on the East End doing their best to help Haiti right now. Doctors from Southampton Hospital are flying out this weekend to offer their skills first hand, while local churches, schools, musical groups and civic organizations are doing what they can to raise much needed cash to help in the effort.
We fervently hope that months from now when all is said in done and the last rescue workers go home, Haiti won’t be a forgotten country again. We hope that the people of this country will stay engaged and be committed to rebuilding Haiti for the next generation. Not by simply replacing what was, but by engineering what can be.
We owe that to our neighbors — whether they live around the corner or 600 miles off our coast. In the meantime, we encourage you to refer to the local organizations on page 5 that are raising money for the cause and do your part — give to Haiti.