Taking the pulse of the people in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti 02/08/10: "Taking the pulse of the people: our last full day in Haiti"

By: Mat Mendez

"We will rebuild."

"This can be fixed."

"We gotta do what we gotta do."

Those are just some of the things we heard today as we traveled through Port-au-Prince for what is likely the last time.

We wanted a final chance to find out where things stand. What do people need? What have they gotten?

And most importantly - what's next for them?

It seems like we will leave Haiti in a time of transition.

Some are still desperate, mourning the loss of loved ones, crying out to anyone who will listen, and begging for the essentials of daily life.

Others have found the strength to take a deep breath and move forward. They are trying to begin the process of cleaning up, and eventually rebuilding.

Unfortunately, the cleanup process is yielding more bodies - or more accurately at this point, remains.

Today we visited a local school that has been shut down due to damage, and is essentially being "adopted" by Jordan High School in Durham.

We ventured into the partially collapsed building...and were confronted with a very distinct smell.

It was the smell of death.

We asked the school administrator if anyone was missing from the school.

He surprised us with the number. Eight to 12 nursing students were trapped and killed.

Their bodies are still in the building we were touring.

It was a microcosm of what the Haitian people face here. Even as they try to look forward, there is always a somber reminder of the past.

But there are many people here to help them along, both short and long term.

Among those whose days are numbered - the men and women of the 82nd Airborne.

They held a meeting today with a collective of government officials and NGOs to discuss ways to put the recovery back in the hands of civilians.

They will stay as long as it takes. But once they feel the Haitian government, its people, the UN, and the NGOs in the country can handle things on their own, they will leave.

We, on the other hand, will leave tonight. Or at least try to.

That should be an adventure in its own right.

We depart with the experience leaving a permanent mark on all of us. Larry, Dave and I have done our best to show you how our troops and people from across the Triangle are making a difference here.

And it's a difference that gives these people all they need to set their minds to the task at hand- pulling their lives back together.

That difference is hope.

As one Haitian noted: "The sun will still come up tomorrow. We have to keep going."

Previous blog entries

Click here to read about Haiti's religious culture on ABC11's fourth day in the island nation.

Click here to read about a Duke medical team in Haiti on Saturday.

Click here to read about ABC11 traveling around Port-au-Prince on Friday.

Click here to read about ABC11 arriving back in Haiti on Thursday.

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