As a team of NYPD and FDNY rescue units travel to Haiti to assist in recovery efforts, our prayers and wishes go out to all those who have suffered during this tragedy. Viewing this tragedy, brings many of us to remember the vivid images of 9/11 that are etched into our collective souls. This disaster, however, also brings back memories of a trip that I took as a Beach Channel High School Senior as a member of the Junior Explorers Club.
As part of the Marine Science program offered at Beach Channel, students were able to take trips during spring break every year and sail around various locals. In 1977, I sailed around Annapolis on a 45-foot sloop crossing Chesapeake Bay and visiting St. Michaels, MD with 6 other HS Juniors.
In 1978, a trip was planned to Haiti. I, along with 5 other High School Seniors and a Retired Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy traveled to Port-Au-Prince to meet up with a 54-Ketch and its Captain. As I look back, I cannot fathom what my parents were thinking, allowing me to travel to Haiti during the Poppa Doc/Baby Doc rule. Nevertheless, we arrived safely and I was taken aback by the poverty that I saw on the 20 minute Jitney ride from the airport to the dock. Arriving at the dock, we were informed by the Captain that he had arranged a private charter for the last part of our trip, so we would have to find other accommodations for a few days. We sailed for three days and then found lodging at a local orphanage where I played basketball for hours along with 15-20 boys, some who were amputees and others who were suffering other maladies. I was able to walk up into Petionville and came across a group of younsters who were playing soccer on the local pitch witch would make most of our local soccer fields out to be Anfield. The rock and glass strewn pitch without a blade of grass was home to these boys. Their enthusiasm was not dampened by their surroundings and they seemed out to impress the visitor. Spirited play was observed and my only mistake was giving a goal scorer some loose change I had in my pocket. For the rest of the day, much like Pied Piper, I was followed by at least 30 youngsters, which seemed to grow as word spread of my generosity. Politely begging for whatever I could give them, these boys a prime example of innocence. My Chuck Taylor Low Tops, a timex watch, some blue jeans and shorts were gladly exchanged for a demonstration of soccer skills. I returned home with a greater appreciation for what our life in the US provided.