This is the complete manuscript of Anfom Frere (Hey Brother) in it’s most up to date edition. If you would like to obtain a copy email me at ZOB.PRESS@gmail.com.
By: Walter Sebastian Adler
With Excerpts from the journals of Phoebe Rusche & Dr. Dominich Asbun
Written in memory of those several hundred thousand souls, [perhaps as many as 316,000] we lost on 12 January, 2010 to the forces of nature and the negligence & vast abuses
Of both NGOS & Governments.
Dedicated to the rescuers and the freedom fighters of Port-Au-Prince.
I ask you now friend, in whose reality do you live?
We all dedicate our actions to the future. But, what is it that we claim to do with our little lives as that future narrows? Have we all lost our faith in outer generations or a glorious world to come? Of course, all lives are both great and also quite little, but it was a matter of sure and soulful pretension; crossed of course a bit with the “sollidaritous” desire to teach a nation of certain newly freed slaves to fish. Allegorically speaking. The fishing and the slaves. More to the sharp of the point, we were training quietly amidst the dust and rubble the fourth detachment of a growing underground medical battalion, to aid a coming Great Revolt. A guerilla army of young rescue workers and student teachers preparing to accomplish the basic yet audacious task of combatting meaningless death and diseases of poverty pandemic on the island of Hispaniola.
The effects of 210 plus years of chattel servitude, rancorous massacre, ceaseless uprisings and putdownings; quarantines, blan occupations and an induced poverty inflicted upon this people from the outside.
In short, we are the latest reinforcements penetrating a long besieged slave revolt.
These long abused stalwarts, there are believed to be eight million poor unfortunate souls on the Haitian side of the line, but the number is truly anyone’s guess; no realistic census has been taken since the last coup against President Aristide in year of 2004.
Which was ten years ago. The date is presently 4 June, 2014. Thus 210 years and six months since the declared success of the initial rising.
Year Zero, After Revolt (AR).
I will tell you now where power comes from. It comes from any grouping of people that can devise a just means to secure ones Maslow hierarchy of needs and elevate then a given population toward their droits de moun, human rights. The power is not in any violence or coercion and fear but in the bravery of provisioning hope. Ah, yes indomitable hope. Hope for the rights of man are an issue of freedom and freedom is well and good but what is freedom to misery and deprivation. What say I on due process when I must mix dirt with my flour to watch my family starve at a decreased pace! Or, watch my fallow fields yield nothing as my children die not long after birth of .Or, when my parents perish in a brown and vivacious filth of their own vomit shit and piss from contaminated water. What are our rights when we cannot read and we cannot flee and we cannot work and there are no schools and we die by the age of mid fifty.
Thankless faceless and unknown niggers. vStatistics the UN tallies on we slaves. Power comes from control of the means of development! To those who run the schools the clinics or the farms the means to secure basic things so that hope is alive again and then once fed clothed housed secure I can wonder on about my so-called “rights”.
The trouble with the utilization of stranger volunteers in any operation of stress and seriousness is tri-part for vast complication. Since there is no material compensation it is hard to prevent adventurism and privateering. Since they are all mostly strangers it is hard to enforce the chain of command flat as it may be. And since they are often multidisciplinary; a linguist, a paramedic, a marine, a fire commissioner, a spook and an inner city transport e.m.t. they are all mostly unfamiliar with the dynamic of free association based two tiered consensus utilized by the People’s Army. The third part of the problem beyond privateering and command control is loyalnost. Sebastian and Adelina are lovers living together for the last nine months in the exile of Massachusetts so despite it, or her total lack of interest not one shit given not a shit of a shit on the subject of politics or dialectics, she does truly love him and he loves her as well and therefore she controls him. Abstaining from the politics of the coming operation she can dispassionately suggest the common sense approach.
This approach is hardly common for here if you wonder about the chicken and the egg you are working often with a sea of self-proclaimed experts that expertise on shells or eggs or how they crack. Or chickens and how to raise them. Or which comes first. But all the local people the Haitians on the street are not concerned with theories like this. They are concerned with survival for themselves and their families. Once everyone has survived peaceably for some time then maybe there would be time for speaking of the perfect egg the just economy or the chicken the functional state. If that’s what chickens and eggs are really about. And all these experts these NGO technocrats speaking English or Portuguese, Spanish or French they don’t trust governments and seeing nothing in the economy to so easily carry off. For there is nothing; they devise ways to raise chickens from broken eggs from sick diseased chickens. Then they blame the Haitians in languages they don’t speak. But they are still just fighting to survive.
The quarantine, such as we call it is 210 years old. It began the day the revolution was declared victorious with the separation of the tri color into the red and blue bicolor ripped by JJ Dessalines. The revolution which had begun by the Jacobins in France whose ideas spread to the blood soaked paradise of St. Domingue purged the entire island of foreign rulers, resulted in a loss of life of an estimated 500, 400 inhabitants and 60,000 soldiers from France, Spain and Greater Britain. It began in 1791 and culminated in the only victorious slave uprising in 1804. Shortly after the quarantine and civil war between blacks and mulattos began; JJ Dessalines signed a purge order of all whites of the island which remained. And by 1805 there were less than 300 blan alive in greater Hispaniola, mostly female, Polish or medically trained. White physicians and Polish conscripts had also fought for newly freed Haiti. The quarantine was not about race or racial antagonism. Whites Negs and Mulats fought on both sides of the great revolt. The issue for Napoleon and other leaders of European powers was that of newly freed slaves. With weapons and armies cannons and turf proclaiming rights of man that had been defeated in the cradle of the uprising France. The issue was still that in the Americas in Europe, Africa, Asia and most of humanity remained a type of slave and this revolt might spread rapidly.
To the other islands of the Wild West Indies; to all of Latin America; to the USA and reverberating out back to Europe and the surfs of Russia and China. In fact the defeat of the Haitian revolution was one of the greatest foreign policy objectives shared by nearly every power. And since the armies of Spain, France and England had not been able to re-impose the hated regime of chattel servitude the new policy was containment.
They had by 1802 captured, tortured and killed the only man Toussaint L’Ouvature who had the moral authority and military genius to secure a multi-racial Hispaniola as a rebel base. He was the father of the revolution. The great powers stirred racial tensions inside and lock Haiti off from the world. And by 1806 JJ Dessalines had been assassinated and rebel Generals Petion a Mulatto in the south was at war with Christophe in the north and these exhausted former slaves were freed to a country mostly burned to the ground in 13 years of violence. Most of the people functionally illiterate content to retreat to tiny plots allotted to them and world their own land staying away from the intrigues and civil conflict between Cap Haitian and Emperor Christophe and President Alexander Petion in Port-au-Prince. And the outside world whispered sedition and tightened the quarantine. The revolt which could not be suppressed had to be buried. Economically this was a success. Haiti no longer had her sugar infrastructure or the means to export anything. So Alexander Petion in a historic meeting with Simon de Bolivar in Jamel the southern port city agreed to export the revolution. In exchange for Haitian guns and fighters bolivar agreed to liberate Latin America and free all the slaves there. By 1820 both colonialism and slavery in Latin America were finished. But newly freed slaves and revolutions do not always quickly make chickens eggs or democrats and by the time Bolivar was dead there were new oligarchies laying claim to all of the newly freed turf. By 1822 Haiti was unified under Haitian President Boyer who surrounded by French war ships signed the indemnity. These freed slaves would pay back France. 21 billion USD between then and 1947. To end the quarantine the economic blockade Haiti would impoverish herself further. And there would be coups. 22 coups until 1915 when the US occupied Haiti with troops until 1934. Imposing a new slavery. Building roads and new plantation infrastructure. And an army which a man named Francois Duvalier would use to come to total power in 1957. And he and his son Jean Claude would rule until 1986 with vile secret police the Maccoutes supported by us money and CIA support for the killing of communists. And a revolt from the peasants and church brought to power a priest. The liberation theologian Aristede. Toppled in 1991 after serving 9 months. And then more bloodshed and coup and more us occupation. And then came a quake which killed 300,000 perhaps. Or 220,000 or 100,000; no one actually knows. As rounded numbers suggest. But, it leveled the capital and the technocrats descended and missionaries. And now four years since the quake a pop singer and Duvalierist is president. A UN occupation is in its tenth year and there are still over 10,800 small, medium and international NGO taking about chickens and eggs and such. The quarantine never really ended. And now 98 percent of the trees are gone. Life expectancy is 56. Half the population cannot read. And a cholera epidemic introduced by the UN troops has killed 9,000 and crippled over 600,000. And yet still people speak of building back better with the Sai Ah Industrial park mega sweat shop or the tourist build up in Ile-a-Vache or new plans to link Haiti into the globalized economy.
But the typical Haitian wonders about the power which goes on for two hours day for the world cup. Or the water supply. Or how to afford two meals a day. It is not so much that one must believe in this narrative but one must listen for a narrative. Or the quarantine succeeds. It succeeds by painting these newly freed slaves as savage primates unable to have a country. Haiti instead of being a triumph of will for human rights and freedom is used then as a cautionary tale. For the long suffering Haitian people do not always get their new except by radio. And since most cannot read French there are only irregular reports in Haitian Creole about the success of failure of this revolt they began. That it spread to Russia, China, and Cuba and then to Algeria, Congo, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Iran and dozens of others plantations. That for those with the ability to read history and current events it seems to be spreading like fire into the Middle East.
This revolt is an apolitical desire to enjoy the human rights codified by the UN in 1945. It isn’t about government or economic organization. After the abolitionist battles and legal end of slavery there are still 37 million slaves worldwide. The great powers and their oligarchies propagate the race hatred and then utilized the quarantine of the Soviet Union as blackest proof this socialist modal was unsound. But there remain bastions. And again it is not about the politics or the economy but about justice. About no spending a half-life fighting only to survive like an animal.
We have broken the quarantine the physical quarantine with ease because our passports are blue and we have 15 USD and a base of operations in this dusty old fort. But perhaps we will have to spend the rest of lives breaking the secondary quarantine. The false consciousness. The separation of fakeness and real imposed by the oligarchy telling us who is white and who is black. Man and woman. Haitian and foreigner. Capitalist and communist. It is a matter of knowing that all of these divisions are lies. Separating us from our human rights. Rights such as healthcare, education, food water, living wages unions, the right to speak or write our opinion without being put in a bag by masked men. Raped. Cut into pieces. And dumped by the roadside at night.
Sebastian and Adelina, shortly joined by the Marine Peter Reed and e.m.t. and Jean Louis a Haitian American e.m.t. and Eric Admen a fire fighter paramedic from Seattle Soviet none shared a simple identity or view. If such labels were too imposed about nationality all were card carrying Americans. And it was this exploitation of privilege that we hoped to use to win. The oligarchy of any country relies on division. And therefore our greatest strength is not our nationality or privilege but that we are forcing an opening. Haitian leadership in Haiti. A simple objective; teach more 40 Haitians to save lives. But we have a narrative though not agreed to by all of this ad hock unit; it forms the underpinning. If there is to be change here and abroad we must control our own means to human development. As a means to human rights.
Covered in dust and baked by heat and surrounded by endless miles of corrugated shanty dwellings and walled compounds no will pay much attention to us. The revolution began by murdering the oppressor. For 210 plus years that fight has been fought to a stalemate. And the resulting rights have been transient and largely un-won.
So we are switching the tactic in accordance with orders from rebel leadership here and abroad. We are internationalists. We are willing to travel country to country to go where needed to most remote jungle or mountain. The oppression is real. The violence is real. The slavery is still real. Our oppressor will still stick a gun in our face and drag us away in a sac and torture us over rights. The way we win is make our oppressors irrelevant. For they wish to read us some Machiavelli or Hobbes and tell as we are but violent little monkeys. That without them wed eat each other. I will say that when men and women can fish; can educate heal and keep roads open and trash free then we will not need them. We will not pay them taxes. We will not let them use our money or hard earned money to buy guns and kill people just like us over their ideas on chickens and eggs.
We are not alone on this island with this idea. My place in the chain of command is that of a staff sergeant. They day we got here we were but five more reinforcements. We have broken the first level of the quarantine by penetrating the siege. And now with but a few devices carried in supported by the local arm of the resistance we train 40 more souls how to save a life. The insurgency began with weapons and ideas. I will not survive this war to see Zion. But that is not my role. Nor Adelina or Pete Reed or Eric Admen or Jean Louis. You give a slave a gun and say freedom and you will wash the blood of an entire generation onto the sea and streets. You give a slave training to heal and save and the blow to the oppressors on the mountain is fully sustained. We are but an army of newly freed slaves who have choose to build the world we wish to see, rather than again set on fire a world already burning.
Within the confines of a dusty but patriotic fort barely held together by cinderblocks rebar pillions and chipped paint; partially over run by cats a small internationalist unit composed of but five volunteers who will garrison the outpost beginning 3 June, Gregorian Year 2014. Behind a mammoth red iron door is the concrete skeleton of a school called “Ecole Shalom des Frères”, which means a ‘school of the brothers of peace’ being intermittently erected. And in the adjacent courtyard is a two story maze of chalk board dimly lit classrooms, a small mess hall and some ten second floor rooms worth bunks to accommodate the inbound reinforcements.
There is a water tower that supplies clean chlorinated water to the locals at 5 goudes a liter. There is a parade ground field covered now completely in debris an impassible dumping ground occupying half the forts enclosure. There is a field kitchen and a wrangle of mangy creatures that when bled or squeezed make what passes as food. Or, eggs. There is a small partially compensated staff of locals. There are two former restoviks one 12 and one 22. They accomplish various tasks of carpentry banditry plumbing an electric work. Three female cooks live in town. One is old women is young and the third of medium age. There is transporter named Colbert; a former taptap driver on staff along with several other useful quasi useful or only vaguely advantageous adjunct personnel with vague if not wholly nepotistic function. And the ground commander gong on his business card as a “country director” is one Mr. Avinadav DeBuitléirs educated at the University of Stony Brook in long island who affiliates himself with the diaspora aspirations of various movements in Brooklyn. But, he directs little outside the walls of this miserable fort; and even here he often prefers delegation.
And, Avinadav was directly support by a petit blan named Laura Levi, but since she was on some business in Ethiopia she had been replaced by a temperamental wench a Quebecois from Montréal named ‘lady Catherine’. Her last name was completely unpronounceable except by the haughtiest of francophone so we said Lady or ‘Madam Catherine’, or Catherine Q because there was universal contempt for her amongst the volunteers. She has too well assimilated into the habit of barking orders at Brown people.
And that is as we say “what it was”.
On 3 June two members of this unit crossed the rocky road called a National Highway from Santo Domingo to the City of Port-Au-Prince on the Capital Cruiser armored bus service which showed the movie Fast and the Furious part 5, at least five times. At first, it was quite loud but by the third run it was silent as no one on the bus spoke anything besides Spanish, French or Haitian Creole, and the initial plot points of the rock and Vin Diesel the most famous of Mulat action heroes had been grasped. And now it was all tits giggling and exploding cars. And the road fell apart right after the Jimani checkpoint crossing. They served us a ham sandwich a bottle of cold water. Sebastian Adon could see the color slowly leave Adelina Blazhennaya’s pretty and petit face as the border was crossed. He could see and via the omnibus rattling feel the road become not road. The structures of the country side become not structures. The lush foliage become barrens. And as the color of his partners face fades Sebastian also wonders how she will react to what is to come. Jostling jolts hit the bus and traffic slows to a trickles pace as the driver forms a one lane convoy behind mac trucks build in East Asia shuttle merchanting goods from Dominican Republic into Haiti. Sneakers and such. Also cocaine or people sealed a valise.
In the mind of Sebastian Adon whose hair was brown and heart was neg. He imagines this infiltration as a patriotic duty for there was some Haitian blood in him for once we took an oath.
The trappings of normal human development crumble each kilometer the bus rumbles into Haiti and the endless dust. A cloud of whirling particulate swallowing the charmless and desolate environs.
At the border, there was nothing to buy except Pringles. In addition, soda of every kind. The customs agent asked Adon in Creole what was his business in Haiti; tourism.
Adelina Blazhennaya and Sebastian both crossed the border in black boots and blue uniform pants and black shirts and therefor the customs agent knew that tourism wasn’t really what they were doing in Haiti. But, no one cared. The Brazilians, Chileans, Argentinians, and a poperee of other lesser nations were running the functions of the disbanded military. The Americans were subsidizing the state. The Cubans were running the hospitals and several thousand NGOS perhaps as many as 10800 were the only economy besides transshipment, allegedly of bulk packaged cocaine.
No cares given in a meaningful way. Much less an under compensated customs agent. They both had blue American passports. Crisp and newly issued. Who cared what their intention was if they had such blue passports and fifteen USD a piece. The two enormous satchel valise roller bags went completely unexamined. As did their two green voodoo tactical rucksacks. Who cared?
The omnibus continued two hours west down the national highway. There was corrugated tin shack after shack. Contrasting the anything to D.R. is an exercise in futility. One can simply see that this the same island and anthropologically speaking that is where it ends. Without a lengthy discourse on history colonialism and superficialities of cultural antagonism well honestly it’s night and day except they both like cock fighting.
Three months ago the president of the Dominican Republic signed an executive order denationalizing of over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent.
They had the tenor of slightly over fed happy slaves noted Blazhennaya. Not the Haitians. Neither happy nor well fed. At each juncture of slow down as she grew more pale seeing the descent into some land before time some utter desolation. Naked children drooling covered in flies. Tents and shanties. Everywhere unfinished construction sites and partially erected edifices. And the cloud of dust hovered over the endless misery.
When they finally reached Port-Au-Prince it was just before tusk and Avinadav DeBuitléir accompanied by Marco Balan the light skinned apparatchik and Colbert the driver loaded them in and shuttled them both away to Croix des Bouquets down the unlit impasses to 808 Rue Double Barrel They were given a choice of three rooms all very dusty and Spartan. Settled a little before midnight. Adelina Blazhennaya sat on their twin bed in a room with no window coverings just a window space with sheet nailed to cover it.
And then she cried heavily.
Not at the overwhelming poverty; the blight scorched earth of the quarantine. Not for fallen friends and those surely to fall. The quiet tears of Adelina Blazhennaya were for herself. For to protect the man she loves and is so devoted she will lose everything and everyone she has ever known. This was a dying place. A ruined pocked and parched Island at or near the bottom of the mountain. Horror has exhausted tears, thinks she. She cries because what hope have they or humanity in general to win. There enemies are hunting them. She is so far from Chelyabinsk Tank City. She cries and Sebastian holds her. Darkness seeps in. They take their place in the trenches joining the reality, the tragic ranks of newly freed slaves. It was one thing to follow a man into hell, it was another thing all together to fight your way from that hell to the heights of Mt. Olympus if not higher!
But before there was a Haitian Emergency Group, before there was a resistance movement winning ground in both Haiti and the United American States; there was a mighty quake which took the lives of between 100,000 to 316,000 men, women and children. Round large disparate numbers which revealed a great unknowing and uncaring. For when the oligarchy cannot crush, kill or discredit a thing they quarantine it.
It was a spirit of solidarity that brought us from Brooklyn to stand beside our Haitian brothers and sisters in their darkest hour; it was the Haitian defiance of empires and the world system itself that made us stay in Hispaniola and continue the battle for freedom beside them.
The year December of 2009 Common Era, snow still falls heavy on the Isle of Man.
In the wood ceilinged restaurant of a Russian Bathhouse Spa 88 that stinks of sweat and also vaguely of fornication, buried below the streets of the Financial District a long conversation is coming to a close. An emergency medical technician named Sebastian Adon is finishing up a good yarn to a young Ukrainian medical student named Zoe Lubov Perechenova who has recently become his platonic confident. The aim of such storytelling is that she might let him pour cold water upon her, let him gaze at her nearly naked body, captivate him with her bright eyes and take in his all his ambulance war stories. Of which he has plenty. He’s been writing her for months. She has full and wavy black hair and she smiles with such mischievous knowing that her beauty and bright smile stays with him long after she is gone. But, it’s not romantic never has been, she simply likes to hear him tell his yarns.
And this has been a great success for the last four hours.
Everything is fully dilated.
They know each from a student group many years ago, when all in this country talked more openly about equality. Sebastian Adon is an avid fan of former and post Soviets. And she is the loveliest Israeli he has ever known. They remind him of something that is tough and also fearless; loyal to a red line and of course exceedingly beautiful and open minded in the bed room to just about anything. Adon has been writing Zoe letters for over seven years. He’s not sure why. Attention? It isn’t simply to sleep with her. Although as a man of course he would not turn that prospect down for she is surely beautiful. He’s a man always highly in need of a confidant, for he’s nearly always in some form of emergency mode.
It has been a rocky road of activism, arrest, trial and tribulation since he first came back from the State of Israel nearly ten years ago in 2001 shortly after the 9-11 martyr operation.
To her he’s a fiery train wreck of comedy and tragic idealism. She observed him young early in his student movement days, then briefly at Hunter University, once at yoga and on the Book Face for some time intermittently. He cannot possibly be cut of normal Amerikanski cloth. He is a curiosity to which she can devote sporadic time. A minor deviation from her studies at Oberlin.
The story this time has been about his moral descent post deportation from the State of Israel. He had recently attempted to return there to visit a long lost associate by the name of Maya Solomon.
He was immediately arrested at the airport.
His two days in Lod Prison were recounted and about Israelis not taking kindly to him working on a Palestinian ambulance for a week; four years prior was much of today’s yarn. The Israelis kind of hold a “whose suicide are you on” type grudge. About them beating him, water boarding him, hitting him with lights, electricity and kicking him repeatedly in the groin bellowing in Russian.
Sebastian Adon ethnically speaking is one quarter Irish; one quarter Russian; one quarter German; and some part Polish Jew; therefore he makes a good little Brooklyn mutt. Or perhaps at best an exceedingly good liberal New Yorker. He drives ambulances for FDNY going on two years in the South Bronx; he sometimes drinks too much liquor and brutalizes a girlfriend sexually; but nothing rapey or violent. Cuffs, anal, threesomes with whores, foursomes with couples, loads on tits and faces. Family oriented fun like that. The product of a generation raised on porn. He’s got loose and transient morals that he justifies with his ambiguous vocation. He likes the idea of human rights, but isn’t sure if humans know they have any, or sometimes if they deserve them. He likes the idea of communism, but isn’t clear why the communist revolutions were mostly violent autocracies. He has basic values that are in essence good, Zoe agrees, though she is vaguely appalled to hear him speak of his sexacapades’ and depravities, they cheapen him profoundly in her eyes.
She heard that Maria his longest running ex left him because he got drunk and swam into the Atlantic last September after a fight. The Russian rumor mill was faster medium than Book Face.
Sebastian has led a small revolutionist club since his return from Israel in 2001 that has caused him considerable trouble; but alas capitalism still rules in the USA, despite his and others best efforts to defeat it.
“There’s a half black president promising to end the wars, forgive student debt and provide universal free healthcare,” Zoe says, “we weren’t all totally defeated.”
She had at one time organized a chapter of the movement at her all girl school Chapin, but that was in almost another life.
Occupy was two years away and the general uprising called the Great Revolt about three.
“Why are you an ambulance man again?” she asks him”
He says to her:
‘An ambulance is a vehicle for transporting sick or injured people, to, from or between places of treatment for an illness or injury, or to heaven or hell. The term ambulance is used to describe a vehicle used to bring medical care to patients outside of the hospital or to transport the patient to hospital for follow-up care and further testing, or bring their souls to other vessels should they be fit enough to live again. The word is most commonly associated with the land-based, emergency motor vehicles that administer emergency care to those with acute illnesses or injuries, hereafter known as emergency ambulances, but in numerous developing and socialist nations community health workers have performed this work on foot and commandeered vehicles when needed. These are usually fitted with flashing warning lights and sirens to facilitate their movement through traffic. It is these emergency ambulances that are most likely to display the Star of Life, which represents the six stages of pre-hospital medical care. Other vehicles used as ambulances include trucks, vans, station wagons, buses, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, boats, and even hospital ships.’
“So says Wikipedia,” smirks Emergency Medical Technician Sebastian Adon reading off his half smart phone, a little black android.
“Why do you have to quote Wikipedia, like every six conversations”, mutters Zoe Perechenova, perhaps the object of his desire, a perky, tough as nails golden eyed, raven haired, shut up he thinks, making words rhyme doesn’t make you any kind of poet.
While completing a degree in Political Science at City University Sebastian took a job as an emergency medical technician and this seems to have tempered some of his previous radical fervor, but not by much.
“I like helping my people,” comes his scripted response.
“You people?” she replies.
“Everybody, who needs some help.”
Sebastian is just under six feet tall. After they get dressed and meet in the banya lobby where she tries to pay and makes sure not to let her. He’s wearing a blue FDNY job shirt he’s gotten personally emblazoned with the Israeli flag, an irony under the circumstances of recent events. The Irish had been putting on such patches for years, however the window for other ethnicities was about to be cut short once the West Indians began wearing their flags into battle so to speak. He has bags under his eyes because he works life’s night shift. He wants her in every way a man can desire a woman but has never told her thus so far in the two years he’s known her. After Maria left he intensified the courtship. That is largely because he at first was fooled into loving another, lesser woman, second because he’s a coward when it comes to his actual emotions and did little to pursue the more likely reaction to his affections; which was surely bewilderment and rejection. So he just kept the letters about big ideas not passions.
“I like collectively written documents. And you’re just being a snob because your Oberlin teachers always tell you never use it. It’s a fucking great definition of an ambulance if you ask me.”
Zoe likes things with scientific references. She likes looking up anything that seems suspect, which when it comes to Adon, is a lot.
“I like some of your collectively written documents. But you go on and on sometimes and need to get to the point,” she says.
“Sometimes your art is overdone, over drawn, you make the boobs big and gross and subtract from your bold uniqueness, in my opinion,” she smiles.
Zoe likes things with references. But she is fully an artist at her core, in her heart and soul. She likes looking up almost anything that seems suspect, which when it comes to Adon, is a lot. She knows he keeps things from her to preserve a somewhat sanctimonious appearance of some kind of bohemian revolutionary ambulance hero.
Just fifteen minutes before they’d both been lying near naked in a Russian Banya called Spa 88. He was putting the story on her about something crazy that had just gone down on what was supposed to be his first vacation in three years. After some other story about a threesome with Maria his ex. Which didn’t ever really happen, it was just something that turned him on to say in front of her. In reality, he had gotten into a fight with her in September on Block Island and followed Jeremey McGaffey’s ghost out to sea for several hours. The local police found him several hours later walking naked down the road with and carrying an enormous rock.
He has a very subjective reality compared to the rest of us she thinks.
She knows he keeps things from her to preserve a sanctimonious appearance of bohemian revolutionary ambulance hero.
“I think you need to go back to school and get more medical training,” she says, “you’re a glorified cab driver with an oxygen tank. You’re not living up to your expectations of yourself.”
“I’ll forgive your lack of appreciation; we’re god’s avenging angels with sirens I’ll have you know.”
When Adon feels cornered he typically drops into even more grandiose rhetoric.
“Sebastian. You, are a terrific story teller, but let’s not forget where we stand in life’s chain of command shall we. I am a student and you are a truck driver with a stethoscope, if we wish to be more than that there is such a long road ahead. ”
He wishes she was less coy; less belittling of his profession and what was left of his idealism. He guesses it isn’t truly love, not when sentiments of rough degrading sex run across the conscience. But if it was simply do her in the back of an ambulance type love, she’d have seen right through it, likely been appalled. He believes in impossible, undoable things. Kids himself into thinking he’s the man for the job.
But she’s not impressed by all that.
Sebastian Adon, is of course in the twilight of his young adult life. He has been driving an ambulance for three years thinking someone would call him a hero at some point, hoping, believing that there was gonna be a chance to save some lives.
“I’ve saved eight lives,” he informs her as he sometimes has before. It’s a justification for why he hasn’t quit the job yet.
“Well don’t let anybody take that from you,” she retorts.
“I want to reiterate that the reason we civil servants feel so entitled is that the rest of you are unwilling to work the conditions we are and face the raw un-adulterated bullshit the people of this city are quite willing to put us through. We guard you while you sleep and you pay us like pizza men. I think this job has taken more from us than we were able to give to our city. And when the city is gone I assure you it is because we have abandoned hope in it.”
“You’re so preachy and poetic, I kinda hate, sort of love it,” she utters as she rubs her fingers together, “that is the world’s smallest violin playing just for you.”
Adon is the kind of man who at this juncture can still be motivated by even the world’s smallest violin. At least to him life then has a theme song.
Her name is Tanya T-bird Tallflame Luv; her slave name was Tanya Barbara Albert. She works on a Transcare 911 unit out of Brooklyn Hospital.
In her own words:
Only reason I’m out here this gorgeous Friday evening is that I don’t make a living wage and thus do an insane amount of overtime to keep myself in the lifestyle to which I am accustomed. I want to be a firewoman. I made the list, I passed the physical, and then the recession bullshit happened. Come the fuck on, I said to myself; I’ve paid my dues. It’s time for them to let me the hell out of this chicken shit outfit, this EMS bullshit. Its 1905, and I’m gonna bang out at midnight. The rain is beating down on the windshield, and I’m prayin’ to black baby Seventh Day Adventist Jesus that we don’t get any more damn jobs. b
Now don’t get me wrong; I have no romantic ideas about fire suppression. A woman, a black woman, I know the deck isn’t stacked in my favor over there in the goomba-squad. But you know what? I been askin’ myself a lot lately; what it is exactly those people do for 90,000 plus a year that makes them so much more valuable to the department than me. My unit is in the shit. We could do ten jobs a day on a summer shift in the Stuy. I don’t wanna say some shit like those fire fighters don’t work, they work a bit. And a real blaze, albeit hard to come by these days happens and yeah they heroically run in.
But number wise; come the fuck on.
In my five years in 911 EMS I’ve gotten fifteen confirmed saves. That’s eleven returns of spontaneous circulation in the field post cardiac arrest and four ‘hauled my ass at the speed of light to King’s county after some young brother got blasted away.’ They only gave me nine little sheets of accommodation ‘cause I think one of the arrests bottomed out in the ER 40 hours in. And they don’t give out nothing for shots and stabs. For ass haulin’, life savin’ spectaculars.
I done carried three tight asthmatic pediatrics out of projects and got them intubated up in my bus and on the treatment. Nothin’ for that. I’m sayin’ I don’t want a bonus or nothing but the sum total of my work, of my personal life savin’ five year total is high as hell. And yeah I buff, but you gotta buff to keep it all interesting.
I’m a fast Haitian motherfucker. My hands move so damn fast at that wheel I can clock under four minutes on any notification anywhere in the borough of Brooklyn. I a demon behind the wheel. And if not for the recession I’d be getting’ mine. I’d make it through their academy and be up on a ladder by now. Savin’ property not life is where the green is. The fame too. Just last week the Daily News ran a two page spread bout a fire engine crew that delivered a baby on the Belt. Not to be a complete hater, but I done delivered six babies now, they even named one after my unit; Sonja “B” Carter. ‘Cause I hold it down in the Stuy.
It’s aggravating that the press loves the fire fighters so much. Not that they don’t deserve it, it’s just we need a little love too. It gets to a tech when year after year they out in the trenches and they feel more like a cab driver than a medical professional. We always post the firefighter saves in the lounge whenever we see them, as if to say we do that shit too you know. We save lives too. It’s been near a decade since the merger and still they shit on us. They still think we’re the red headed step children of the emergency services.
But the cops know. They see us out there more doin’ our thing with the shots, and stabs, and EDPs. I heard just a week ago some EDP put a gun up in some crews face and demanded that his girlfriend be given Narcs. EMTs don’t carry narcs. We got Aspirin (the ASA), Albuterol, Oral Glucose (a fancy word for a sugar tube) and Oxygen. That’s it. TV has everyone thinking we’re paramedics. Anyhow, I got upwards of thirty recognized and mostly unrecognized saves and I want out. I want my goddamn promotion ‘cause I’m closing in on 29 and then they cut ya.
I heard that EDP motherfucker near shot two of our boys last week on 44I in Brownsville. Heard he shot his girlfriend, hit an MOS close range in the leg, then shot himself. The crew member saved the cop by hittin’ that EDP with his asp thirty times in the face. Bleedin’ out his damn leg he called a 10-13 and held direct pressure on the wounded cop. Don’t see that in the Daily News. Don’t get any thanks when we have to act like enforcement. But a Fireman who delivers a baby is a god among men. Or a firefighter who does just about anything in front of a camera.
I want out. I want into Fire. I need the stimulus money to stop getting ‘lost’ in paperwork before it trickles down to EMS. I need to stay in shape, not burn out, and not let the resentment over take me. They say it’s for the good of the service, but I’d like the service to do a little good for me.
“31Sam for the Multi Trauma on Livonia,” the dispatcher cuts into my thoughts.
“I hate East New York,” mutters my partner Melvin Clarke. And he’s a 6 foot 6 Jamaican.
“31Sam, I got trauma and I ain’t got any other units available,” the dispatcher Shirley states, too always too camp casual on the air.
She tones us up, the loud extended beep to wake up sleeping crews.
“31Sam pick up your radio!”
“31Sam; sent it over central!” I hoot into the radio. It comes over flashing on the KDT.
“That looks really, really bad,” Melvin mutters. I glance at it without reading anything.
“Yup. Let’s ride,” I say not lookin’. “Central show us extended!”
Clarke taps me on the shoulder, points me to the screen; he never mentions the job enroute unless it might matter.
Apparently a dog is eating a little girls face.
I move far faster now, faster than the speed of public safety, or life.
It’s the 20th of December, 2009, Jeremy’s been dead for about a year. Maria, she left him about six months ago, hasn’t been a good year, Sebastian’s a Jew at heart, at heart he starts counting the year from September. A real shit year all things considered, it isn’t rounding out to be the decade he’d hoped for either.
He’d believed in so many things once. Hope, change, justice, freedom fighting via militant nonviolence. Making bombs that didn’t kill. Things he learned in the Middle East.
Adon has been technically working for the FDNY since January of 2008, but a month into the Academy his best friend Jeremy took a pistol to his foolish head and got off two rounds. Now that was zealous work. Two shots to the head and from this world departed the best partner Sebastian ever had. Jeremy and Sebastian used to organize people back in college, try and make a little change in the community. They’d together built a revolutionary social club of several hundred dedicated to human rights and epic change. They were a good team. But now Jeremy was dead and Sebastian didn’t believe human beings were all that good anymore after about two years in the South Bronx and Bedford Stuyvesant, and the other places where the side walk ends.
Before FDNY, Adon used to work on a Transcare Transport Unit. About a month after Jeremy died on January 31st; of 2008 Adon worked his last Transcare shift with a paramedic named Emile Cange. After dropping out of the FDNY Academy he picked up overtime where he could.
He’ll retell it to you in a flashback:
Its late night, in the old city, sometime around 4 in the morning, no calls, the transport bus was seated somewhere out deep in Canarsie, waiting of orders on the Nextel for work. As Transcare tended to assign per diem employees random partners, Cange and Adon were total strangers, met that night. It was a Sunday, Emile Cange tried to never work on Saturday ‘cause it was the Lord ’s Day. He was a practicing Adventist now and had recently been educated how the Lord’s Day was actually Saturday, not Sunday. Sebastian always tried to work on Sunday because everyone else had been fooled into thinking it was the lords day, and that drove the call volume down.
“Why’d you become and EMT?” Emile asks him.
“To do the Lord’s work,” Sebastian lies.
The conversation then turned to God and the Jews, and it was a conversation that had gotten old to Sebastian, as he’d had by now with what seemed like every other black person he’d ever road with, a talk about god, late at night, on an ambulance, a talk about Jews. Blacks were obsessed with Jews it seemed to Sebastian, couldn’t decide just how anti-Semitic they were as a people, the answer was that blacks were pretty anti-Semitic as a people. Emile wasn’t though. They talk for a while, their palaver leaves an impression on Emile, but to Sebastian it’s the same old song he’s been singing to blacks for years. But he likes them as much as he likes the Soviets, which is to say more than anyone else via projedice.
“The lord’s work is often done by an unwittingly righteous person I’ll have you know,” Sebastian interjects.
“Amen to that. God has a plan, and man is filled with all sorts of arrogance that he can generate one, better to let the lord work through you.”
Black people are just fuckin’ loaded with biblical insight, thinks Sebastian. But Sebastian’s lungs are black and his heart too, so some of that knowledge he can relate too. But, Sebastian doesn’t believe in God any more, has no use for her.
It has seemed increasingly that he is to walk his life Alone. In the past year, tragedy in the form of questionable suicide struck. Everything had gotten a little surreal since then. He’d retreated into his work, the bringing out of the sick and dying. By the time he met Emile Cange, there wasn’t too much going for him, days he slept, nights he worked, and on free days he was drunk, bad, bad-evil drunk.
“God even has a plan for you brother,” Emile had told him.
He doubted it. He deeply missed Jeremy, often wondered what kind of guy let’s his best friend off himself without seeing it coming. He’d seen him a week before he did it out at Woodhull hospital psychiatric. He wonders what kind of piece of shit he is when that’s the best friend he respectively takes on. He wonders if he’ll ever get the nerve to kill himself.
Sometimes Sebastian sits on the Brooklyn Bridge, all horror show and wonders if he has the nerve to jump. Imagines his body hitting the cold blue black brine and moving on to the sweet hereafter. He doesn’t mind the ambulance work, seeing all these sick and dying people. He’s already dead. His body just has to catch up with his mind.
My name is Scott Sevastra; I’m 33, slightly overweight with silver freckled hair and spectacles. I wear spectacles, not glasses. That’s different. Adon and I both work out of Station 35, Woodhull Hospital on something called vacation relief, which means we hardly ever work the same unit, with the same person twice. Vacation Relief is a fancy of way of saying ‘people not showing up to work relief’. If Adon has a friend on the job, that buddy would be me. I used to be a fire fighter in Schenectady. He never lets me live that down.
Adon and I work out of the Woodhull Hospital’s garbage hangers where 35 is based, the so-called ‘Belly of the Beast’. The whole complex looks like the death star, all cast iron exterior, towers and flood lights.
One would suppose the beast is called Bedford Stuyvesant.
Bedstuy is a shit hole, no matter what color you are. It’s a bunch of dirty row houses that get no light and the people get no opportunity to do more than collect government money and get into shoot outs over stupid beef and universal staring problems.
To some this work is like a calling. We were all drawn here for different reasons, some were quite noble, and some were not. Tammany Hall is fifty years dead but being an Irish grandson of a fire fighter still opens a few doors. They call it ‘legacy’. It goes in a file, then without being officially recognized other than a check box will wind a new EMT in Station 43 Coney Island then over to the Rock in a year to promote to suppression. There are a myriad of systemic problems around here. But you have to have a fairly analytical mind to see their connectivity.
After the towers fell a wave of civil service activism-romanticism swept the nation and the FDNY were once again working class rock stars. A brief era of patriotism took hold and the ranks of the emergency services were stocked with young men and women who might have gone white collar except for the collective ejaculation of national trauma. The FDNY, the greatest full time-part time job secret the Irish and Italians ever kept were quickly re-couping man power and by 2003 the waiting list for the Fire Suppression open competitive exam was nearly 25,000 deep. EMS was the expeditious way to cut that line if you weren’t legacy, hadn’t passed high school, and may or may not have been in the top of your physical class.
In 1995 Giuliani merged various emergency services to cut the costs of their respective civilian bureaucracies. FDNY was 98% white, catholic and male while EMS was heavily integrated. FDNY with a force of nearly 12,000 fire fighters couldn’t justify keeping that many trucks in the field. EMS was already doing nearly a million calls a year with a force of under 3,000. The merger was toxic to everyone involved and it took another decade for the firemen to even look us in the eyes when we arrived on scene.
I wasn’t here for most of that. I was a paramedic and a volunteer firefighter in the city of Schenectady upstate. I earned a degree in Fire Science and had promoted to paramedic via my volunteer company. Everywhere but NYC becoming an EMT or a Paramedic is a promotion. In the city of many lights you promote to fire fighting. I became an EMT because my uncle was a paramedic and I grew up in the glow of emergency lighting. I was built for this mentally. In the words of technician Adon; ‘I possess the constitution to take this as far as it needs to go.’
There is no money in this. We probably lose 8 brothers and sisters a month to just about any other thing hiring. Attrition continues to thin the ranks. Studies report a disproportionately high rate of divorce, alcoholism, and suicide in EMS comparatively to Fire or Law Enforcement. We are asked and often mandated to work 12 to 16 hours a day in adverse conditions, in some of the most depressed regions of the country with outdated low-bid equipment, little public support, and virtually no encouragement from the city we serve. Moral is so low that the national statistics report that the average span of an EMS career is a little under four years. The department asks us for 25. Run the numbers and that’s why we’re always at 60%, that’s why you can find as much overtime as you can swallow.
Out of the 8 that leave each month, 5 quit, normally within their second year. 2; their number came up on a civil service test; normally PD, Sanit, Correction or Suppression. The last one sustained a line of duty injury; real or concocted to get them off the streets on LODI for a few months to collect AFLAC benefits. We lose members far faster than they can recruit. There is a virtually endless pool of EMTs to draw from, but most worth their salt go work for a Voluntary Hospital and can triple the wage we make. Others just know that the department will bleed you dry chasing a pension and a dream. They have recruiting posters in city shelters if that says anything.
The critical systemic problem is twofold. First because of low pay, hard hours and appallingly low morale we lose our toughest and bravest to the fire fighter promotional at a rate of a few hundred every three years. We lose our brighter and more ambitious members to the private sector and the field of nursing. This leaves us with a broken mish mash of skells, burn outs, a few zealots and a high rate of obesity in the ranks. The other side of this is the lowered expectations to close the staffing gaps. That means on a segment 1-3 priority call you might get a truck load of CFR and long board trained fire men or a waddling glob of minority goo with a gold chain and an un-tucked shirt.
“This job is a calling, you either believe that or you’re on your way out,” I say to Sebastian.
But Sebastian is staring off into night. He’s chasing ghosts from the past.
“You can’t have an unrequited love affair with a whole people! Not for a whole damn country,” I tell him.
He doesn’t hear me.
In November of 2009, Adon, myself and eight other EMTs started a group, a new otriad called the Banshee Association, an EMS fraternal organization grounded in Human rights. We’d sense put out three issues of our newspaper citywide and made quite a name for ourselves as a ‘Jew-Commy conspiracy to ruin EMS for white people’. The Brothers and the Latinos, who make up over ¾ of the force seem to support it though.
There’s really only one newspaper for true blue EMS sedition, and that paper is the Banshee. Our editorials rant along the lines of:
“They say there’s no rest for the wicked, but I haven’t done anything that truly bad in quite some years. These streets will run you ragged. Bleed you dry if you’re inclined to let the reaper take you.
But on a long enough time line everyone is going to die. Oh, Technician Adon sing the blues:
Our mission, in so far as our misnamed, disheveled, brow beaten lot; can call the nature of our trade a profession with a mission; is that when you die you may do so in warm bed, surrounded by Jewish doctors, West Indian nurses, attentive and curious, cute, young internists, and of course your family, all around you pouring out that thing called love before your long kiss good night.
It has been said that on a long enough timeline our kind will lose all ability to feel. That one of our number might stand above a mass of splashed and splattered organs, avulsed intestines scattered across a black tarmac in the glow of streets cast upon our troop; to then light a cigarette, make a stupid fucking joke; and then take a camera phone picture of your son’s dismembered corpse. There are rules against such conduct, but not a one in our number would turn away. If your son’s body lay splayed across the freeway, before that thing called god one at least or more would say a silent prayer, reach down their blue gloved hands and wrap a hospital sheet shroud over the body, close his eyes. And perhaps the one of us with the camera phone might say something crude or racist, normally to a cop doing crowd containment, to show our compatriots he or she felt nothing. But when your son or daughter fell, ingloriously in a bloody heap it was us who carried their bodies off that street, it was us who had gang rushed, blaring in that dead of night racing brave to save them. And we’d do anything in our means to bring them back to you for just one moment more.
I don’t want you to try and call us heroes. We just want you to know that we have given everything to our trade, every drop of our sweat, every ounce of our blood drained; to our or third or second marriages, to our child support bills, to our black lungs and swollen livers, before we find pension we’ve poured out upon these streets our humanity for you in the 25 years of servitude to our city of many, many lights.
We don’t want a Daily News two page Spread on the four through six; and I don’t think you’d buy a calendar of me topless in my PPE out-city, ‘heat resistant’ post-911 fireman pants to raise money for our fallen soldiers. Well maybe of you would. We don’t need their medal ceremonies, their cheap metal bars to pin about our blue collared breasts. I just want you to know we exist, and that we’re coming as fast as we can, and that we’ve sacrificed ourselves completely, become a people changed trying to help, and remember; you called us.”
So read the preamble ramble, the editorial of the Banshee Newspaper, issue 3, the only rank and file controlled EMT-Paramedic Newspaper, a paper founded by me, Scott Sevastra and Adon in November the year prior.
The paper made the Department crazy.
But, since the Israelis worked him up in Lod Prison, since his girl Maria left him, since he can’t get over his friends death, since he may in fact be bipolar, well Adon isn’t talking so tough anymore. Our other Banshee Association leader Mickhi DBrisk, an EMT over at Transcare called me.
“He ain’t got no girl, he ain’t got no country, he hates his job and slinging papers ain’t gonna save him. You watch his ass,” DBrisk had told Sevastra, “just the slightest thing could set him on a road to self-destruction.”
It was nearly new years of 2010, and we were all a little worried about Technician Adon. The Department has him on a black list for slated termination and so does the State of Israel. He has a bad habit of making new friends in all the most powerless places.
Paramedic Emile Cange is working Transport Unit 808 out the Transcare base in Canarsie. He his slim and wears black spectacles. It’s Christmas and he shouldn’t be here, but his church teaches Jesus wasn’t really even born on the 25th, not even born in December. His partner is a tall Jamaican named EMT Mickhi DBrisk. Mickhi is smoking a Newport out the Ambulance window, watching the snow, and thinking about his son Jayden.
“I just need to get out of Transcare,” Emile mutters to Mickhi.
“This shit ain’t worth no $10.00 an hour,” Mickhi responds.
“When is yer Medic upgrade class finishing?”
“It’s complicated.” That’s Mickhi’s way of saying he doesn’t wanna go into it.
Suddenly Mickhi becomes talkative.
“Son, no one has ever heard of my job classification. I am technically not an “ambulance driver” because I do not generally ever drive, being that I have no license to do so, and I am not a “medic” because that would imply I was a Paramedic in our EMS vernacular; and my qualification certainly prolongs life, but does little to diagnose and virtually nothing to treat. You can become State certified to do my job by sitting through a three month class and being over the age of 18. I believe people as young as 16 perform our skill set on Volunteer Ambulances and as young as 14 in developing countries. It’s about eight basic life support skills you need to perform for medical and traumatic emergency and sixty some odd sets of signs and symptoms it would be good to memorize, but a frighteningly small percentage of my graduating EMS class could recite off less than six months out of the program.”
“What’s yer point brother? Didn’t you read the memo, no one’s ever gonna say thank you except the patients. ” Emile Cange asks.
“I can’t remember the last time that happened. I was one of ten brothers in my class of 65 at LaGuardia Community College which is viewed as one of the best EMS training centers in NYC. They made this game out a whole lot different than it turned out to be.”
“Well if you’re white in EMS: you’re crazy, a fuck up, or tryin’ to be a fireman for the FDNY. Then again, if you’re any other ethnicity in EMS you gotta be just a little crazy, a fuck up, or attempting to become a nurse. Because when it comes down to it: we are the hip hop of the Healthcare Industry. We make money takin’ lives. Ain’t savin’ nobody on the long enough; not even yo self.”
“We can’t make you better like a doctor can, we don’t have to slightly pretend to care like a nurse does; we can’t stabilize in a pre-hospital setting via our own training like a PA can; we are EMS; people shoot at us because we look like police in the din of narrow housing project lighting; we might not know what you have but we can keep you alive for at least seven more minutes; and unless you’re missing your head, you’re not legally dead until we get you to a hospital.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” says EMT Mickhi DBrisk.
On the wall of the Transcare Men’s room at the Brooklyn Base in Canarsie on 800 Bank Street: ‘We scare ‘cause we Care’ is scrawled in sharpie in the men’s room second stall.
“I work for the Wal-Mart of ambulance corps I’m fond of saying. At $10.00 an hour I have a worse healthcare package and wage than a Starbucks employee. And I don’t get any stock options after six months. We are the city’s, and soon to be country’s largest ambulance provider. I was hired exactly two months ago; most employees quit or transfer after six months when they go 911; and be nervous about the ones that don’t. Transcare is an enormous business like virtually everything else about Healthcare in America. I spent less than a day of the five day training being reassessed for skill retention; the remaining time went into how to prevent myself (and the company) from being sued, how to tastefully obtain patient insurance information, and how to properly fill out the Patient Care Forms so that that we can legal bind the patient incase their insurance won’t cover the cost of their trip.”
“This shit is business more than its medical profession,” notes Mickhi.
“Like most Americans, you and I are terribly misinformed when it comes to how the dark underbelly of how the Healthcare system functions in this country. It may be illegal for us not to transport a person who can’t or won’t sign, but this company will terminate technicians that transport those that can’t sign “too often”.
Mickhi tosses his mostly finished boag out into the falling the snow. Mickhi is an activist with the Adon’s club; on paper at least it’s Chief of Operations. Cange talks like an activist, but he isn’t one. Like most of EMS, he likes to explain, likes to complain, but it won’t lead to activism. Mickhi gets that, Sevastra and Adon don’t.
Emile pauses then resumes his critical stress debriefing, “During patient assessment a transport EMT obtains vitals; while the other ensures the airway, adequate breathing, and circulation. We gather a past medical history, a list of medications, any known allergies, and pick up any paperwork from relatives of the hospital or nursing home that might give us more clues to the patient’s current condition. At some point, generally when they’re loaded onto the ambulance, we ask them to sign a form that most EMT’s describe as patient confidentiality statement, but it is actually a billing release. It is drilled into us in our retrain days 2 through 5 that we must always obtain a signature. That’s because it costs several hundred dollars for an ambulance ride. People wrongly think that calling 911 is a quick free way to see a doctor. That isn’t a very realistic conception at all.”
“Nope, FDNY shakes um for about 500 too,” says Mickhi.
“My work for Transcare brings me into the projects, townhouses, homes, and apartments of New Yorkers in all five boroughs. We also bring patients to places like Connecticut, Long Island, and Upstate New York. I always have a different partner because I work irregular shifts generally overnights and weekends. Most shifts will mandate you to work over 12 hours. One makes plans with a cushion when working; you’ll always be late if you have plans after work.”
Mickhi has heard all this before, said a hundred different ways. The paper articulates a lot of these basic points, puts in writing what most already now via word of mouth.
Says Emile Cange, “My partners fall into two categories of which I am in the second. The first have been here more than six months and have made a profession in EMS transport; that is to say non-911 pick-ups of the morbidly obese, chronically ill, or psychiatrically unstable. They like the job because by the third year it comes close to Starbucks pay and is particularly accommodating to larceny and laziness collectively. Going 911 would mean working harder, going to another Private company or FDNY might mean working harder and being more tightly scrutinized.”
Only about one/fifth of Transcare employees in EMS (they also operate a fleet of non-EMS Access-a-Ride Para transit buses) are in this category.
Everyone else is out of here in six months, Mickhi and Emile included.
The remaining group is generally right out of school and looking to quickly accumulate experience before they either go 911 and transfer to better private or get accepted in to the FDNY Academy for EMS.
“A small subgroup of the second category is just logging the 200 hours they need to go Paramedic. The real difference in partners is those that want to do this career or those that see it as a complicated hustle getting paid to do precious little. It should reassure you slightly to know most of the people who will be doing this on a 911 level care enough to keep their skills sharp if not care enough to care.”
“I care enough to care,” admits Mickhi DBrisk, “One day when Ayden asks what an e.m.t. is, I’m not going to recount even a single story about my work. There’s something really, really trite and cliché about an EMT or Paramedic rattling off some crazy war story. The only thing more pathetic I feel is when an alcoholic or drug addict does it. You should take it for granted we see things that are crazy every single shift we work. It’s a big city full of people that are sick and dying.”
“I find that most of my partners from your second category have a micro/macro view of our work. On the larger macro level we are a vital link in the emergency response chain able to get the sick and wounded to a hospital that in NYC is never more than seven minutes away,” Emile responds.
“Our job at its most basic is to quickly bring the dead and dying to somewhere they can be kept alive,” says Mickhi.
“On the one on one micro-level we are the people bringing out the sick and dying when they are scared and with the people they love. More than any other link in the Healthcare chain we deal with people at their most vulnerable and it falls on us to earn their trust with our compassion. I keep songs on my cell phone in sixty different languages; people’s faces light up when I play them as we drive to the hospital,” explains Emile.
“One of my partners keeps several copies of the Malcolm X Autobiography for when we transport wounded prisoners to psychiatric wards and infirmaries. Another keeps teddy bears in his jump bag,” laughs Mickhi.
“A lot of people are a little out of it when we move them. Some beg for Jesus to take them or tell as terrible stories of tragic lives. A lot of people want to die because this life has been so hard on them. I try and make them feel special, or at least respected. Sometimes I’ll get people over a hundred years old and I’ll try and get them to tell me a story about their life. Sometimes I’ll transport a desperate middle-aged soul still quite totally confused about the purpose of their life.”
“It’s sort of easier to give someone a toy or a book and competently engage in a transport than to have that sort of universal empathy that lets you communicate your sympathy in a way that’s genuine; if it’s forced its counter productive and you should stick to the competency and giving of gifts,” says Mickhi.
“You can’t just nod you head and whisper sweet nothings of compassion; you have to empathize via a real experience to be related back. You have to honestly care, not transCare,” states Emile.
“People are either very scared or very intent upon dying. I’ve seen a person survive a nine-story drop because they were hyped up on PCP and believed in a thing called love,” war stories Mickhi.
“I’ve seen a partner restore stable vitals to someone with a “Do-Not-Resuscitate-Order” with a bag valve mask and the blasting of gospel music,” war stories Emile.
“I’ve seen people slip a twenty to bunch of kids when their single mother went to the ER so they could get something to eat,” war stories Mickhi right back.
“We are absolutely not paid enough to care. We can only engage in this line of work on a long enough time line because of the human good we are able to do. The death and suffering would surely take its toll on our mental health if we did not find outlets to make our works worth more than a skill set,” explains Emile, “that’s why I’m gonna become a doctor one day.
“I’ll tell you straight up; I would never have gone into East New York if it hadn’t been for this job. I wouldn’t be learning Spanish, I wouldn’t have such a large collection of foreign music; I wouldn’t know my city nearly as well as I’m about to in the next few years. This job is good because it is compatible with my sleeping habits, values, and allows me to flex my empathy,” says Mickhi lighting another Newport. Emile cringes.
“You will learn to believe in a thing called love when you a carry a nameless 87 y/o woman in your arms who has no legs, has an external bladder you must also carry called a Foley Catheter that has made her sheets stink of urine; and although quite blind she “sees the light in you” and wants you to pray with her even when you ain’t been to church in a hot minute,” says Emile. Emile has been to Church yesterday. He’s rubbing it in with Mickhi as he sometimes does.
Emile continues: “I always feel like I’m bearing witness to the end of the world each Friday I go out. The clamor of the ER, the speeding around on lights and sirens, the murmurs of your dead and dying, and the precious little we’re good for except maintaining your vitals and proving to you we care. Or perhaps each shift we must prove it over and over again to ourselves; because it isn’t the paycheck and benefits that keep us out in that bus; it’s a love we can’t explain for people who we are not obligated to love or empathize for; but have to if we want to keep up this work.”
“There are a lot of sick people in this city; some made sick by circumstance, some by trauma, and many by ignorance about personal health. We will treat them all irrespective of class, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation,” says Mickhi almost paraphrasing the Banshee Operating guide he helped write.
“But I’m only busting out the pillow if you’re old, or if you’re Haitian,” jokes Emile.
The night is brick as hell. Christmas dinner for Mickhi was a Delhi sandwich and a pack of Newport regulars from Obama Fried Chicken bodega on Rockaway Parkway. He fills the tiny confines of the compartment with carbon monoxide.
“I don’t play games and I don’t take prisoners; I got buck wild debt, I got child support to pay and big dreams,” says Dbrisk.
“Just nine more hours of this bullshit to go, then we get up off the plantation.”
“Hey brother, amen,” says Emile Cange.
On January 11th, Emma Solomon whispered now by many to be ‘the mother of Messiahs’ arrives in the City of Port-au-Prince. She is athletic in build; olive tan, her brown hair is still flowing and while she appears Canadian, she travels on a Spanish passport still having much noble data within the space between her ears that must be passed quietly to underground on this island before most of them are wiped out by devils in the next 72 hours.
She carries with her a black baby in a swaddling cloth and a hard copy of the New Social Gospel.
The Haitian customs agent turns around to face her and lord; is she beautiful! With long flowing brown hair and a smile to disarm any man. He catches the baby on her chest like a second later, but that smile catches him off guard for a full minute, because he just doesn’t really look at that in a woman as prominently as before. And with that smile, that little baby her beauty and her tan white skin he doesn’t bother to search anything at customs, waves her along.
She is a little taller than her curly blonde, spunky travel companion Phoebe Rusche the courier and looks like a warrior. Phoebe is a lover and admirer of Haiti and a talented writer. She has been offered a job as a masseuse at the hotel Olofsen and plans to stay there for some time writing her latest book. Emma has hired the young Phoebe to bring her into Haiti and make an introduction for her at the legendary Hotel Olofsen to a certain Mr. Morse.
Phoebe recounts her impressions:
I flew from Chicago to Miami, Miami to Port-au-Prince. At O’Hare airport I sat next to a couple with a baby boy. The father held his hands and sang while he danced obligingly, a clumsy baby cha-cha, fat round limbs tottering cutely to the beat. The mother eyed me. “Are you a missionary?” she asked. “No.” “You work for NGO?” “No.” “Writing a book about voodoo?” “No.” She seemed perplexed. I saw them again in the Miami terminal, the father holding his son tight.
On the plane I sat next to a priest. He wore a cassock and thin wire-rimmed glasses. His face was very kind. He asked me if I liked to sing and I said yes and he wrote down the name and address of his church. Port-au-Prince wheeled below us. It was cloudy, the harbor colored slate. I saw hills carved out of the earth itself, shanties like some metastisizing growth, some blight. “No trees,” the priest apologized. He eyed me. I tried to keep my expression neutral. “People say bad things about us. You will decide for yourself.”
“Good luck,” he said as we stepped onto the tarmac. “I think you will like Haiti. Contact me if you need anything. Come sing in my choir!”
There were only two baggage claim carousels at Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport. I stepped up to the dolley-rental window and attempted to speak in Creole. “‘Luggage’ tanpri?”
The woman behind me in line laughed. She was very pretty with curly braids and laugh lines by her eyes and a denim skirt and stylish leather boots.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“No, it’s wonderful that you are trying,” she said, and introduced herself as Chantelle from Evanston, a Chicago suburb not far from where I live. She was visiting her parents. She and her brother helped me lift my bags off the carousel onto my cart.
Two bored looking policemen pretended to rifle through our things before hurrying us Along. Outside it was humid, the air pregnant, electric. The leaves of the trees were fat and waxy. The sky was yellow. “It looks like it’s about to rain,” said Chantelle.
Hustlers descended upon us like locusts, offering to help us with our bags, but Chantelle ushered me past them. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” she said. The men’s mouths opened and closed like fish. Their eyes were desperate. I felt like I was underwater.
The man sent from the Hotel Olofsen to pick me up introduced himself as Marco. He wore a polo shirt and khaki pants.
“Call me if you need anything,” said Chantelle from Evanston as Marco loaded my bags into the trunk. A man in a dirty Adidas t-shirt came up to our van and put his hand over his stomach, then touched his fingers to his mouth.
“Mwen grangou,” he said, then seeing my incomprehension, “Blan. Give me money.”
Marco waved him away, shaking his head in disgust. Emma seems to be acknowledged an left to herself as thy move through the city.
We drove toward the Olofsen, through streets narrow and winding and hillier than San Francisco. We drove past the Champs de Mars and the National Palace. We drove past restaurants and hair salons and walls with shards of broken glass glinting on top. We drove, narrowly missing small children and intrepid goats, and I marveled at this other world I’d entered.
That was the first time I saw Port-au-Prince. That was the last time I saw Port-au-Prince. I wonder if the priest’s church is still there. I wonder if Chantelle and her brother are alive. I wonder if the baby boy died. If so, I hope his father didn’t survive.
My companion Emma Solomon claims to a journalist, but she doesn’t ask that many questions. She paid me very well to bring her here from Chicago and places unknown, but seems more confident walking around in Haiti than I ever could be in my own skin here or in the states.
Remembering nothing, we begin again. Vodoun dreams; awake for the Quake, oh Papa, the horror. Legbe, open the door to the crossroads of redemption and salvation.
The earth shook and then swallowed in just a few moments over 100,000 to 250,000 to then 316,000 souls. Many more would perish from their injuries in the days to come. They were wretched souls to begin with, abandoned and often exploited souls kept in such a state by their own leaders, and powerful gangsters, and the apathy of the world at large. But those images that came over the telescreens on the 6 o’clock news woke everyone up for about five hours, didn’t let the good ones sleep so well that night. In a unanimous voice across the globe many asked what was to be done. An entire island of poor, unfortunate souls had been rendered apart, cleaved asunder by the ground on which they’d eked on nothing.
One famous American televangelist, that bat shit crazy devil, that hateful fuck Pat Roberts quickly explained to his vast pale flock, “It’s because once upon a time the sadistic leader of that misbegotten slave Island made a pact with the devil himself.”
There is only one thing every white, every blan so-called knows about the Republic of Haiti; that some many years ago they killed every single white person on that island in a successful revolt against slavery and have lived in misery ever since.
While Sebastian Adon lay half-drunk from defeat in bed coming off a 16 hour graveyard shift in the trenches of Central Brooklyn, his arms around a Chinese miss thing, a fashion designer named miss Julie Chu; Tiputti Capois, an 18 year old medical student in Port-Au-Prince watched the central dormitory of the General Hospital collapse on over 200 sleeping nursing school students as the ground moved in a vile and grumbling wave. There was then screaming everywhere, thick plumes of smoke death and dust. More screams, hysterical screams that no Haitian ever had made before. While Dany Bélair field stripped Engine 17 in Atlanta, Georgia coming off work Jacque, a shatah joined a frenzied mob attempting to dig some several hundred school children out from under a collapsed school house with their hands. A pretty girl with crushed and dismembered legs was bleeding all over herself next to a man in a daze who just saw his family disappear under his housing complex. Screams, frenzied prayers in creole: Papa why? Hadas Hadaad, a slender Israeli was getting her nails done did in Soho; while Jasmine-Yvette yelled, bellowed really at a UN peacekeeper to get help, lots and lots of fucking help, and then another few buildings came down on a mass of praying, pleading people in the aftershock and the UN peacekeeper drove right off. Zoe Lubov Perechenova was studying in Oberlin; with James Miranda in the library at Stony Brook six months from the Boards; when the Carrefour municipal complex collapsed killing no one, except for just about everyone in the city as they slept being the epicenter of the terrible quake. Emile Cange was at the wheel of an ambulance in Far Rockaway hauling a morbidly obese Italian woman to a dialysis appointment, when most of the nation’s major hospitals and the doctors inside of them perished in the blink of an eye.
Everything that wasn’t much left is gone. The quarantine has now become a killing field.
The website reads:
“The Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BSVAC), the nation’s first minority-run volunteer ambulance corps, was founded in 1988 by two EMS workers, Captain James “Rocky” Robinson and Specialist Joe Perez. The creation of BSVAC was their response to the crisis in emergency medical service that afflicts New York’s minority communities.
As in other minority communities, many residents of Bed-Stuy do not have health insurance. As a result, they are less likely to visit the doctor’s office for routine care or for treatment in the early stages of disease. At the same time, African-American men and women suffer disproportionately from high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes. These factors lead to a disproportionate number of emergency room visits — 75% of all emergency medical calls in New York City come from minority neighborhoods.
In continuous operation since 1988, BSVAC is the busiest volunteer ambulance service for its size in the nation, answering over 100 calls per month.”
For its size means that it has only one functioning ambulance. It’s very easy to talk a lot of trash about the BSVAC, so better to embrace them with a ‘god bless you for trying’ which is what Borough President Marty Markowitz did when he bought them a trailer to base their Greene street operations out of.
On January 12th, a quake of 7.0 magnitude ripped apart the city of Carrefour killing nearly god knows how many people outright and burying an additional tens of thousands under the rubble, thereby creating an evolving MCI that would cause traumatic injury to and additional tens of thousands in a nation lacking even a rudimentary EMS system.
On January 12th, just four hours after the ramifications of the quake were reported, the Bedford Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Company (BSVAC); a single ambulance outfit, self styled as the nation’s only minority run ambulance service decided to respond to the disaster in the event that the world would be unwilling or unable. BSVAC went on Channel 12 and 1010 Winds and announced that if anyone who was willing with medical training to respond to the disaster in Haiti showed up at their door, BSVAC would find a way to get them on the ground to Port Au Prince.
They didn’t have a plan. Like the first responders at 9/11; moved by a duty to act their volunteers mobilized immediately as did over 90 civilians who answered their call.
And clearly, based solely in the noble realm of heroic idealism they succeed. By December 16th 104 volunteers, 14 from their network and 90 assorted medical professionals boarded a VISION charter airline paid for by the Church of Scientology, and staffed with a motley crew ranging from the East Norwich Volunteer Fire Company, 40 nurses and doctors from the Haitian Physicians Association (AMHE), EMTs and Paramedics of Transcare, AMR, Assist, and FDNY both Fire and EMS, as well as Scientology volunteers covering the gamut of disaster relief specialists, to nurses, to midwives. 104 strangers were to board that plane, which following a layover in Miami touched down on a desolate and newly reclaimed airstrip December 17th, 1700 at Toussaint L’Ouvature International Airport, the stench of death in the air.
As the world froze for a week and the media gawked awkwardly at this catastrophe, 104 women and men were to enlist for immediate action with the BSVAC.
Adon upon returning to work watches the pictures flash over the telescreen bolted within the 7-11 on Atlantic Ave. It was like 911 times 10,000. No one had any idea how many were dead, how many were wounded, how many were trapped.
His phone rings as he watches bodies pile up on the evening news. It’s his friend and comrade Mickhi DBrisk.
“If we had a way to be in Port-Au-Prince in the next 48 hours would you go?”
How could he say no? He’s been training for this moment all his life.
“Just find us a way onto the island my brother.”
“Hey brother, that work is done.”
Mickhi Dbrisk was not allowed on the plane he found.
He had no passport to board.
But Sebastian and 103 other Haitian, West Indian and African American medical volunteers organized by the BSVAC and AMHE managed to get on a Vision International plane paid for by the Church of Scientology, on the morning of January 15th, 2010.
It all happened so fast, Adon in a near sea of heroic strangers with a green ruck sac and a blue uniform.
“What do you know about Haiti,” Sebastian leans over the seat to ask the only other half-Jew on the plane Alex Furlini. Furlini is little fellow with a brown beard and eager eyes. Sebastian is slender and is wearing a brown skally cap beret.
“Not so much,” the young bearded architect, part time EMT responds.
“You ever done something like this before,” Sebastian asks.
“No, never, I guess I was moved by what I saw on the TV.”
“You know, I’m told I have a good head on my shoulders, an imagination of some repute, but for the life of me I can’t imagine what we’re flying into.”
“Well I know it’s gonna be bad, real bad.”
“Yeah, but how bad!? I can’t picture it at all.”
“So you’re an EMT with the fire department?”
“Yeah, Bedford Stuyvesant and the notorious Woodhull hospital.”
“I live down the street from there.”
“What do you do in New York, Mr. Furlini,” Sebastian realizes he doesn’t know the guys name.
“Alex Furlini. I’m an architect.”
“Well there’s gonna be work for you for years my brother because there aren’t any buildings standing in that capital,” quibs a brother sitting next to them, “my people just can’t ever win.”
“They say joking is the healthiest way to deal with tragedy. You are?” inquires Sebastian.
“Fire Fighter Danny Bélair,” the brother responds.
“So what do you think we’re flying into Fire Fighter Dany?” asks Sebastian.
“Well hell I’d imagine. I’d imagine the worst thing you’d ever seen or suffered and multiply that by ten thousand.”
The worst things Sebastian had ever seen were a double lynching in a Bedstuy school yard, the utter crushing and disembowelment of a crack head he knew struck on the Cross Bronx expressway, as well as a picture of his best friend Jeremy who’d taken a hand gun to his own foolish head. That’s the worst he could remember seeing in this objective reality, the land of reach out and touch me. In his mind was a darker place in which he’d seen quite a bit far worse.
Furlini had gotten his EMT certificate during a period of uncertain depression taking a leap of faith EMS might cure him of his nervous twitch, his vague desire for heroism. In fact, he’d never been behind the wheel of an ambulance in his life. He’d only read about dead and dying things as well as sickness.
“No, I don’t think any of us will have seen anything like this,” mutters Sebastian to Alex and Bélair. Most of the cabin is passed out.
“Exciting right,” grins Bélair the joker. A third generation Haitian fire fighter, a half Jewish architect and part Hebrew mutt EMT share a moment.
“Well you know what they say about good intentions,” says Sebastian.
“Oh, they’ll kill you,” glibs Bélair.
Sebastian couldn’t but dart off the faintest recognition that he’d seen Alex Furlini before.
The airlift was organized in wild fire mode via the two truck, ‘minority run’ Bedstuy Volunteer Ambulance Corps. They were just about the only thing left behind from the fabled Black Panthers, well besides a substantial prisoner population and some folklore posters and memorabilia. About four hours after the first quake hit they went on the local telescreen network and declared they were going to Haiti on a rescue and relief mission. Donations poured in, volunteers lined up, they partnered with Haitian Physicians Association to ensure a steady wave of doctors, nurses and a few loose millionaires.
“Did you know Haiti has more millionaires than any other West Indian island,” says Paramedic Emile Cange to EMT Dominich Asbun.
Dominich is composing the opening chapter of his journal account of the happenings to follow. He’s tall, dark and handsome with a goatee.
“I didn’t know that. Did you know there are more Palestinian doctors than any other group of Arabs in the Middle East?”
Neither of these ethnic factoids are verifiable, they sort of served as proud rumors one might make national small talk over.
“My sister was working at the UN when the quake hit. She was outside getting coffee when the building killed all her co-workers,” explains Emile Cange.
“Maybe, but the living have to bury the dead.”
Emile Cange and Dominich both work for the Transcare Corporation along with several others on flight 749 Vision Air chartered by the Church of Scientology to fly 104 medical volunteers to Haiti on the 15th of January, 2010.
“What are we gonna see down there you think,” asks Dominich.
“The end of the world,” says Avinadav Sultan, another Transcare Medic.
So, after Bedstuy Volunteer Ambulance Corps partnered with Haitian Physicians Abroad they realized that FEMA and UN were not admitting civilians into the country. The 82nd Airborne had landed and there was no functional airport, no functional port to off load aid. They built a supply garrison and had to repave-re-erect Toussaint L’Ouvature international airport. That was when an elderly and calculated man named Patrick O’Conner showed up at the office depot on Green and Malcolm X Blvd promising back end logistics and a plane with a landing docket. He was a representative of the Church of Scientology’s volunteer ministry.
“So what the hell’s up with all these Scientologists?” asks medical student, EMT certified Jim Miranda to his buddy Kevin Wessel, two of four volunteer fire fighters from Long Island.
“Who the hell cares, they’re getting us there,” responds a half asleep Kevin always an Irish optimist.
“Don’t they believe in aliens?” mutters Jim.
“Tell me something Miranda, if the Klu Klux Klan itself was gonna pay for and secure the clearance for this relief mission wouldn’t we still be here?”
Kevin had heard Sebastian make that glib in the JFK terminal line to Emile Cange in the same context. Kevin wasn’t sure what they’d find down there either, but he was sleeping the nervousness off.
“No, I think I’d be just about as nervous. I mean ask yourself about motivation buddy.”
“No I don’t have to. It’s a large scale disaster MCI rescue mission, it’s just gonna be 10,000 times worse than anything we’ve ever seen before.”
Jim has black hair, a grey GO NAVY shirt from his past service. Kevin has brown curly hair and is wearing a black Bedstuy Volunteers t-shirt and blue BDUs. Both are firefighters with the East Norwich Fire Rescue Volunteers, both carry stethoscopes around their necks and jack knives on their belts, they wonder what they’ve gotten into so rashly. So like everyone else they cling to a talisman.
There are a lot of Haitian nurses and doctors on the plane. The EMS contingent is however rather diverse. What people saw on the TV screen they could not ignore. If there was a way to go they were going, that’s simply how bad it all looked.
“We’re the ones driving toward the burning building. In this case, it’s a burning country,” said fire fighter- paramedic Dany Bélair. If that was even the right allegory at all.
EMT Dominich Asbun writes in his journal, as it is calming to do so.
“Apart from the hella time I’ve had psyching myself up for this – the news images, the stories, imagining rotting bodies and dying babies and limbs and the violence wrought that I might witness, and my own emotional state and turning the tap back off as tight as I can – one of the funny things that comes up is the feeling of importance, of mission. I guess this is what someone going off to war with the cheers of his country feels like: something you’ve trained for, and the rules of society bent towards your purpose. The world is watching with its mouth open while you pack your bags, and they’re asking you everything and thanking you, and suddenly some part of you takes in the hype and expects everyone to care as much. Riding my bike on the sidewalk towards Bed-Stuy Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BSVAC), I see cops, and yeah I get off my bike (it’s the law), but for a second, I consider riding by. When they’d stop me, I’d say, It’s OK, Officer, I’m an EMT; I’m going to Haiti today to provide medical relief. “That’s cute,” said Mercedes, and, “That’s so noble,” said Ashton, and “That’s amazing,” said Pascale. I guess I care more who it’s from than what they said – I don’t know what I’d say myself. But, anyway, this thing ain’t mine and I want to keep foremost the idea that the people in Haiti need it, that importance and compliments or not – compliments or not, I have absolutely no idea what some pain is like and what I can do is put myself somewhere to help. They’re singing ‘Lean On Me’ on the bus to the plane, ha, while the plane gets fuel problems fixed. I’m not saying I don’t do this for the adventure, though. Isn’t everything we do, in the end, in some way for ourselves? Not everything – it’ll be in the details, the actual actions that I do for people, not in the general ‘Going to Haiti’.
The fucking plane leaks fuel. Then, it doesn’t leak! It was over fueled, and delayed, and we lost our time slot in Haiti for landing as assigned by the Marines.
‘Going to Miami/Bienvenido a Miami’. Hurry, wait, Hurry, wait, Hurry…Flying is a magic, ” sings Asbun.
Recalls Hadas Hadaad:
It’s vital that you don’t spend all your emergency funds on the landing slot bribes alone. You need as well to rent a plane. And hope you end up with one that doesn’t leak jet fuel and explode in a ball trying to cross Cuba. Or that the so-called religious group your government funds, one of two as means to move people around the planet in a hyper clandestine fashion; you hope that front group religion with their yellow shirts and odd touching rituals doesn’t rub the locals the wrong way.
They had to ground the plane on the evening of the 15th in Miami because the fuel was leaking, or they had over fueled, there were a few excuses, anyway, something was wrong with the plane. They missed their landing slot and the Scientists put everyone up in a Howard Johnson. It only fueled anxiety and the unrelenting anticipation.
Not knowing still what he was getting into, he’d taken some napkins from the airplane and written about his fears and excitement, jotted um down in quick bursts and mailed the napkins off to Zoe so she might root for him through the upcoming travails, or perhaps mourn him if he fell in what was looking like a shit show of unknown proportions they were about to fly into.
Sebastian also did what was in his nature, he went and ordered some Stoli from the hotel lobby bar. Doing also what was in his nature he ordered a drink for the slender, raven haired Israeli alone at the midnight watering hole.
She was slender but stacked, clearly Israeli.
“Hadas,” she introduces herself.
“So you’re an e.m.t.?”
“Yeah, and you’re a Scientist right?”
“You know I don’t really believe half the stuff the media says about you guys. I think not paying taxes is an important step on the road to freedom.”
“Sebastian, I think you’re the kind of guy who says anything to get laid.”
“That is a mostly accurate picture of me Ms. Hadas.”
“Why are you going to Haiti Sebastian?” she asks.
“To meet young women who like medical attention.”
“I’m quite healthy for now it appears.”
“Well you say that now.”
“It’s a very special island were going to. I hope you and the other volunteers appreciate the whole of what you’re embarking on.”
“I just know they killed all the white people in 1804.”
“Does that make you nervous?”
“I’m Hebrew, not white. I just hide in their skin,” he winks.
“What do you do back in New York, for the Scientists I mean?”
“Scientologists. I work in communications.”
“I had you pegged for their tractor beam operator.”
“Does it help you to laugh at the great unknown so you can feel less scared for your potential short comings?”
“I like to laugh at almost everything.”
“Wanna see a cool trick,” she says getting close to him.
“Do you like getting you dick sucked,” she asks him.
Drink me and grow enormous.
Sebastian Adon wakes up in cold sweat in a stranger’s bed at the Howard Johnson, he’s not awake but he sees some things that he’s never seen before. Like some taste of things to come. Like seeing his own corpse got up and walked across the hotel out into the future.
The Scientologist had hypnotized him perhaps, or poisoned him and soon he was dreaming. What had she done, certainly not sucked his cock off. Men will engage in very detailed dreams to avoid frightening realities.
She knocked him out with something between an assist and the power of suggestion.
Mother fucking Israelite spies, what the hell were they doing in Haiti?
From the journal of EMT Asbun:
“The landing and waiting for the plane’s stairs, and waiting as the sun sets and dims the dust that’s miles into the sky, and sleeping in my seat for I don’t know how long until finally we shuffle out.
Haiti, holy shit.
“Volunteers to help unload bags?” and then bam, bam, bam get the bags out bam, bam, make a chain bam, bam, bam we need people to unload the supplies one more up here, up here! And up into the belly of the plane yelling and sweat and broken water bottles, you stay there, we need one more! And sweat and your back tickling the beauty’s ribs. On the ground piling boxes and sweating and piling boxes, straps and moving, sweating and water and then we sat. And sitting and standing and sitting, the tarmac as a world – the UN, the Japanese, the media, pictures, shout out and interview, sitting and standing and waiting, writing by tarmac light and directly above you a few constellations, the moon like God’s fingernail that was there reminiscent at dusk now gone – interrupting your writing to catch the football, but no you guys can’t play here, then helping the Spanish firemen been here since Thursday. Shit they’re all kinda wild, their eyes, but talking to them maybe that’s what firemen are like in Castilla de León or maybe they’ve just been here since Thursday. The Spanish and the Japanese and the Brazilians and the EU, the Canadian military “evacuating citizens, and everyone,” BedStuy and our black shirts, the military zipping everywhere in golf carts or 4 X 4 or not zipping but a heavy, heavy presence with all those planes and neon lights everywhere, and everywhere the sound of propellers or jet engines and the indecisive wind of this first night in Haiti. Whew. And waiting.
Out of the bowels of the plane they unloaded crates of food and medical equipment on trucks that drove right up onto the tarmac. There was no customs, there’re wasn’t much airport. The whole place was lit up with glowing halogens, various relief agencies of over thirty nations were assembling beachheads around the airport’s periphery.”
The military was everywhere, the whole thing looked like direct aid D-day.
There was a smell in the air when they disembarked onto the tarmac. It was the smell of mass death. There was a breeze and before the sun went out they saw the mountains above the city far in the distance, tall and glorious. Each volunteer formed his or her own notion of how they’d react once the relief effort began in earnest.
A few had taken the most direct route to see their families as hustlers with hearts sometimes do. EMT Tanya T-Flame Tallbird Luv was one of that number. She watches as the fire boys pass crates of supplies down a line onto the flatbeds. She watches pudgy Haitian nurses and doctors who haven’t been home in a decade in hushed voices whisper prayers. Everywhere, even with the breeze they can smell the death of the city. The unburied and buried alive. Tanya drops her pack and lights a Newport. Tanya knows her family is out there somewhere and as soon as she’s able she’s gonna spirit herself away from the rescue to find them.
“And piling the bags of like 50 people into the last two rows of the bus – it’s our system, and the other buses use it, and more sweating and when finally we finish and the ordering, organizing is done and it’s so goddamn nice to have simple and clear goals, to think hard and on the instant and work hard and then sit back tired on what you did. After waiting we drove out (10:45 pm), past the variety Marines’ planes and past the people lining up to leave on the same vessels. We came in on and past the hummers and the gates, onto the dirt road. We’re away from the jets now and it’s all silence and a ’lil ringing in my ear and the Third World. If it weren’t for the faces and vegetation and the letters on the walls it could be La Paz, or Costa Rica, Syria, or Cuba, India. Maybe I’m lumping things together. But it’s there: the dust, dust, dust; what it is to know so well the smell of diesel car exhaust, and where the smell itself takes you; people on top of things, agile; concrete and concrete crumbled and faded paint; ‘el Inflatable Perro’. We drove through some shit, didn’t see hella destruction, but at night things are different. Staying at ‘T. Ness Club’, a gym. They use car parts for weights on the dumbbells; the Third World. Outdoors sleeping on an unpitched tent for cushioning, fuck mosquitoes and this light is dim. I don’t know about this journal type thing. A first is a first I guess, we’ll see. I’m in a group (Team 1) with Paramedics Emile Cange (Team Leader) and Sammy Sultan; also EMTs Jackie Hyatt, Tanisha Hill, Stephania, and Cassidy Vale. A dormir.”
Phoebe Rusche is a curly blonde American expatriate holed up at the famous Hotel Olofsen: She is one for strong opinions. She asks herself:
“Have you ever been to a Haitian market place in Port au Prince? Have you ever walked through the masses of humanity huddled on top of each other selling their wares; selling their spices, or their oranges, vegetables or meats? Have you ever smelled the air or the dank odors that rise up from below your feet as you try and make your way around — avoiding, if you can, stepping on someone’s merchandise, all the while swatting at flies? Bonjour Madame… Bonsoir Monsieur… Market ladies talking, laughing, quiet, arguing or simply still, lying on the used clothing for sale or rearranging for the umpteenth time a pile of three eggplants that refuses to sell itself. Watching, taking it all in, planning.
It’s not healthy. It’s not right. It wouldn’t be acceptable in Europe or Canada or the United States. The health inspectors would close the market down; the fire marshals would be bought or chased out. The wooden markets have already burned down. How many people are permitted to exist per square foot in the Western world? How many toilets must you have per person in the Western World? 1? 2? Gold toilets? Ones that wash your hands, zip up your pants and flush themselves!
Since Haiti’s earth quake, I’ve been complaining about the living conditions in the tent cities (bed-sheet-cities too) and then I started to realize that the living conditions in the tent cities aren’t that different from how Haitians were living before the quake. Sure, before the quake the homes were often made of cinder block, tin or cardboard instead of tarp or canvas, but these pre-quake homes didn’t have running water. These pre-quake homes didn’t have indoor plumbing. These homes didn’t have refrigerators or stoves. So really, how much adjustment had to be made to go live in a tent? Not Much.
The international community is rightly concerned about water and toilet facilities in quake-stricken Haiti but how come they were never concerned about the living conditions or Haiti’s urban poor before the quake? How come the UN never shouted out before the quake? How come the UN didn’t scream out before the quake about how Haitians are living? How come the UN thought it was so important to drive around in bullet proof vehicles with their weapons out but they accepted so openly the way people were trying to survive in the cities? The UN adapted to the squalor instead of putting an end to it.
Last night, while I was sitting at my desk, it suddenly occurred to me that Haiti’s new tent cities actually look like the suburbs when I compare them to the fly infested, mud strewn conditions of the Haitian market places. The economic conditions which cause people to stay, live and work in the market place environment are ironed out in the fancy restaurants of Petionville and the meeting rooms of Washington D.C. Even more disconcerting; I’m assuming that most of the people that are going to the Haiti Donor Conference are strictly going to get a piece of the 11-14 billion dollar pie that’s being recommended for Haiti’s resurrection from the rubble. The people at the donor conference are not really concerned about the inhumane living conditions for Haiti’s urban poor. If they were, they would have shown that concern before the quake. Are the market ladies going to the donor conference? Are RAM musicians who live in Tent Cities going to the donor conference? The folks going to the donor conference are probably the folks who created Haiti’s current economic condition. Should we expect change for the better from the same folks who gave us change for the worse?”
“No slavery, no colony.” These were the watch words under which a 12,000 strong French invasion force set off over 2,000 miles to bring the Haitian Revolution under quarantine and control. Its orders were simple: pacify France’s most important colonial possession by locating and exterminating the rebel leadership, reinstituting slavery, and reigning in the mulatto pretensions to equality with whites.
In the year 1801, Napoleon reinstituted slavery in all French processions in the Antilles, all save Haiti which had via bloody revolution seized control of what was the most profitable colonial exercise in the Empire, brutal iron home to some 700,000 African slaves.
When Toussaint L’Ouvature, the brilliant former slave commander was betrayed and carried off in shackles to die imprisoned, that invasion force had been decimated, the country was a house of ash and his lieutenants proceeded to purge the colony of the remainder of its white inhabitants.
Sebastian Adon had to learn the history of the Island on the go, in bits and pieces, many of them aggrandizements or half-truths. He learned some on the omnibus to and from the general hospital which became the focal point of the rescue and reconstruction effort in January of 2010. Some he learned from hyper-educated Haitian doctors like Louis Hinge and William Savoy, other bits from Marious and Fitz the massive mercenaries, some from the Scientists, dialectically speaking. The book ‘Black Jacobins’ filled in quite a bit albeit from a fairly Marxist, revolution loving perspective. The young men he helped train as volunteers, those that spoke English seemed unfamiliar with history. It was as if the world’s historians chalked up Haiti in two sentences. There was a slave revolt led by Toussaint in which all the whites were murdered. Haiti became the world’s only black republic freed via revolt and proceeded to become the poorest, most wretched nation on earth. But Sebastian, the EMT, the Hebrew detective as his friends joked loved ‘bigger pictures’. Much to the consternation and tireless patience of his new partner EMT Cassidy Vale his delve into the back story would consume him.
On the first night down, Sebastian attempted to inventory the meager supplies. He sat around a pile of empty card board boxes with Alex Furlini and EMT Cassidy Vale cutting cardboard boxes into splints. They were tragically low on many things they presumed they’d need. There were cases upon cases of water and not a single vile of albuterol, or morphine or even Motrin. There were endless crates of power bars, but no traction splints, no multi-trauma dressings, no sutures, no antibiotics. Of the 104 volunteers 48 were emergency medical workers, 40 EMTs and 8 Paramedics, seven cross trained as fire fighters. There were 30 nurses and ten doctors; there was a Scientologist logistics and supply crew comprising the rest of the company of rescuers.
The compound was located in ‘District Tabarre’ to the Southeast of the flattened capital. It was poorly secured, guarded by a truck load of young men with shot guns. A Haitian EMT Jimmy Severe sat outside the main tent surveying a stick to dirt compound map laid out by Dany Bélair. Sebastian watched and listened to the night standing near them with his chain smoke.
“The place is totally indefensible,” muttered Severe.
“Why would anyone attack medical workers,” asks Sebastian.
“Because they were desperate before and will become more so every day. We Haitians have suffered every single type of injustice and do not break, they see us as dollar signs, behind these walls foods to feed their families. When we are sleeping, or when we grow tired or venture away they will move in and loot the compound.”
“Maybe not,” says Bélair.
“You haven’t been here in years, brother; you don’t see our people for what they’ve been reduced to. They know we will all be gone in a week.”
Jimmy and another EMT named Juno Jerome spoke at length then with the young guards in Creole sizing them up it seemed. The guards, open the primary gate and let Sebastian, Juno Jerome, Dany Bélair, and Jimmy Severe inspect the road, there is nothing outside but crumbled structures, dust and death. A sickly looking dog is the only intruder that wanders into their blue and white LED lights.
“No one’s out here,” says Sebastian smoking another smoke.
It seems like only Severe has been here in a while, beyond their color and their tongue this Island is as alien to these Haitian rescue workers as it is to the few whites that have come along.
“And the quake has changed the game again,” translates Severe from what the guards have been saying in Creole.
“They say that the people believe this to be sign about the end times. There is an old legend in the Voodoo lore about a series of destructions that will befall the island, before the return of a promised leader. They say the whole world has come here finally to help us, sent its doctors and armies to rebuild and to learn how far we fell as a tribe. The legend says the world learns how to save itself in Haiti before similar disasters strike across the planet in the coming dark days,” translates Dany Bélair.
“I can’t tell, is that ironic, optimistic or just plain silly,” responds Sebastian.
“Well hope floats right, they’ve been left to die for over two hundred years,” explains Bélair.
The cynics trusting not the young guards too thoroughly break the remaining night into three two hour shifts, but all end up sitting on watch ‘til dawn. Sebastian hasn’t slept well in about two years. He keeps loosing people he loves, his luck had run out. He consigns himself to the island, having not much to lose by simply doing what he’s been trained to do, but for a higher calling.
He’d been contemplating from a place of great darkness for about three months, nothing felt quite clear anymore. He’d fallen apart long before. There were growing suspicions he harbored about his own sanity. Back in Brooklyn chained to his thankless ambulance in midnight hours under the glow of Woodhull hospital he remembered only Jeremy’s ghost.
“How did you end up on this mission,” Dany asks him.
“My Jamaican best friend called me the night after the earthquake and asked me if there was a way to get to Haiti, if we had to leave immediately could I go, and I figured the answer was yes.”
“You don’t know what you just got into white boy.”
“I reckon I will have some idea in the morning.”
“What happened to your Jamaican wing man?”
“He didn’t have a passport.”
“Why doesn’t he have a passport?”
“Why doesn’t Haiti have lights or roads,” interjects Emile Cange.
“Or ambulances?” mutters Jerome.
“Or hospitals,” says Dany.
“Or anything. What the fuck,” says Dany Bélair.
One of the local kids addresses them in Haitian Creole.
“What did he say,” asks Adon.
“He said ‘Everyone’s dead,” says Emile, “he said everyone’s dead, and they’re trying to kill us all.”
“Patience is a virtue. Merde, humility is too.” Dominich recounts the first day:
Yesterday we woke up at 6 am, sat around till like 2, got word from the meeting with the UN and were at the hospital by around 3 pm. Tried to coordinate finding Tanya ’s relatives, she told me from NY she hasn’t yet heard from them, but it’s not possible right now. Yea, it’s the third world and I’m ten places at once but also its specifically and absolutely Haiti, and Haiti after what they’re calling the worst earthquake in 200 years, the most deadly in history. Driving you don’t see every house upside down, or not at first, like the news would make you think, but you damn well see a good number of the city blocks fucked up and it’s crazy. People still living their lives but hella those lives now on the street and off of broken houses and buildings. We drove yesterday to the hospital by the presidential palace and by Champs de Mars. And they gave us two big, adjacent rooms in an abandoned part of the hospital and said, “Here.”
When I was a kid, and since, there’s been always a little of an adventure in exploring things broke down – derelict buildings and dark rooms full of trash and trashed offices. We set up a 5 station ER type room (check-in, triage/vitals, code green, code yellow, code red) and the world is ours and we kicked down doors and dug through destroyed rooms looking for supplies, and whatever appeal I picked up from movies and climbing shit as a kid swelled up to grown-up size with our purpose and getting shit down and ready for people that six days after the quake still need a splint or a cast or an amputation, or simply clean water to drink.”
Paramedic Emile Cange gazes out in horror at an island that is his by blood, and supposedly by birth but is a place to crush a man’s belief in the goodness of god. N95 masks smeared with vix-vaso-rub barely mask the stench of the air around them. The streets are clogged with mopeds, with bikes, with shiftless and dazed masses, with techno-colored Taptap mini-buses, with push carts with the broken and dying legions of his kind.
After the Health Minister ‘authorized’ their deployment at the General Hospital two large white dented, dirt crusted omnibuses moved most of our contingent into what was left of the largest Hospital in Port au Prince. The rescuers passed vast tent cities, crippled thoroughfares, the ruins of the presidential place. The world of the capital had come to an end. Vast thongs of desperate partly injured people lined the streets seemingly glaring at the two buses inching their way through the rubble.
“A Haitian never smiles at a white or a stranger,” Jimmy Severe had explained, “but they aren’t staring you down like they want to fight, this ain’t that Brooklyn glower.”
Severe speaks with a thick accent by the way.
“We are an immensely curious people,” says Nurse Jeanette Sangosse explaining the phenomenon to Sebastian again on their way in. She is in her late 40’s, a Nurse at Queens General Hospital.
There are tears in the eyes of many of the rescuers seeing all this wreckage by day. Some take pictures to testify back home, or sometimes taking a picture is easier than looking at something for too long yourself. The Haitian people stare in at them. They never smile or flinch.
There are big green gates at the General Hospitals compound which its security roll open to reveal a near abandoned medical facility about the size of Union Square in New York. Several buildings had fallen in and all was in disarray. The rescuers had been asked to restore the triage and emergency area in a two story building near the gate.
There are several hundred patients, hundreds of crush injuries and amputees. Cold calculation and perhaps pragmatism had sent the first day in medical relief workers on a chopping spree. Infection was now setting in on day six since the original quake rocked Carrefour and the capital into this teeming hellish scene.
Sebastian, Furlini, Miranda and a dozen others were charged with clearing out the lower triage bay. There was blood, dust and refuse everywhere. Attempts were made to sterilize some beds. Beds made of doors, beds made of anything one could lie upon near death. In the upper ER were roughly 150 patients, largely amputees and assorted mass trauma. Dr. Gary Baptiste and Dr. Hinge began a rundown of total patient count in our area of the facility. A few Swiss and Canadian Red Cross tents had been erected a five minute walk down from our building. Partners in Health were operating an OR up the central hospital road, coldly and without much enthusiasm to share much patient information with our company, but who could really blame them, they’d been here 20 plus years, and to them everyone else was a disaster tourist. There was an International Medical Corps contingent, largely a group of thirty internists from Massachusetts.
With dirty water and cleaning fluids the rescuers mop the lower triage bay. The structure seems sound enough, but the place is ghostly and grim. Ruined files, over turned furniture screams for help everywhere. Half our number set off to make some semblance of order in the bay, while the second party began attending to the hundreds of crippled victims in the upstairs ER.
EMT Cassidy Vale, a scrawny Irish bar back at the Niagara Bar back in Manhattan takes it upon himself to outfit and organize a quartermaster of supplies in the lower bay operating room, if that’s what it was before the rescuers declared it such. It was in his nature to create order, to make a thing systematic; he’d learned in the boy scouts and working in bars. Sebastian did what was in his nature. Sebastian too had some talent for organizing people apparently delegated with Hadas the sexy Scientologist and Dany Bélair the fire fighter the improvised layout of their area into green, yellow and red zones ad hocking some basic themes of MCI command with the bare necessities they were working with. Long wooden benches were hauled in for the walking wounded and family members, what beds were available for the yellow and red, the more critical under their care were filthy.
Kevin Wessel the young fire fighter started dragging every manner of broken off door, of ply wood boards and binding them with rope to gurneys making a second semblance of beds. They poured and swept that bay clean to the point it could be feasibly rendered, shouting orders and piling meager lifesaving equipment, salvaging what was left from various stock rooms. There were no oxygen tanks, no bag valve masks, hardly any medicine, the tech bags each rescuer carried were laden with mostly trauma dressings and assorted articles. Cassidy stacked and filed all that the rescuers found. About two hours to sun down there was a salvage made complete. They began in taking patients. Children missing arms, a crazed woman screaming as if possessed they sedate and tie to a chair. It is thankless work, soon all the beds are filled.
Captain Raeburn is the Bedstuy leader tasked with ordering the rescue workers in the EMS command what to do on the ground, but he’s never much ordered anyone around as a four month on the street EMT and let’s his selected ‘squad leaders’ do most of the organizing. He’s a good man, but a largely inept leader with no real authority besides the two gold bars on his lapel. Miranda, Sebastian, Emile Cange, Dany Bélair and Severe had been placed in charge of groups of 7 to 10 EMTs. None of them had ever been Bedstuy volunteers before the expedition, but all seemed capable enough, with enough influence and charisma to direct the crews working on the ground. Raeburn was a frail looking leader who could be swayed toward a course of action by nearly any of the younger appointed leaders.
Miranda is about three months away from a doctor so most of the EMS treat and differ to him like one. Some of the EMS go far beyond their protocols and skill sets under his direction, but some like Sebastian don’t. Sebastian doesn’t totally like Miranda, but still differs to his clinical judgments if a doctor isn’t on the floor. This is more a question of male ego and world view more than one of medical opinion. They shoot everyone up with salvaged pain killers and antibiotics, infected wounds will kill as many as the quake and the crews have to debreed a good deal of maggoty four day old makeshift dressings.
Everything is done in a rapid fire succession of escalating crises’. Most of the EMS crew that with the best of intentions came here because it was the island of their blood, had never been in the NYC 911 system, they were transport techs largely, hardly ever used their trauma skills. There was the expected flaring of ego and ethnic tension, there was also eventually a coalescing of teamwork under fire. The IV tubing and saline lactate ran out by dusk. Both floors were filled with bleeding and injured, but not a single Haitian seemed to cry.
Cassidy Vail and Kevin Wessel kept running off, kept hauling back boxes of supplies from adjacent crashed structures, kept reporting on possibly a thousand patients in various throws of dying outside on gurneys and cots assembled like a MASH unit in the park within the compound. There was this crew of good old boy green berets from Mississippi that had come down to adrenaline junky it up. They were a pedestrian ambulance, them and two Haitian translator-porters hauling critically injured off the street and into the now apparently open for business ER. EMT Tanya T-Flame Tallbird Luv (who was planning to defect at sun down) kept getting into it with them. They were brusk and machismo, talking down to everybody as they ran in.
“Where the fuck would they be bringin’ um if not for us,” Tanya mutters to a scientist midwife named Leah Caro whose been attending to a growing number of pregnant women brought in from the yard outside in a make shift OB setup behind the quarter master office.
The screaming crazy woman suddenly comes to and starts thrashing in her chair. Dany Bélair gets called in by Miranda to sedate her again. Hadas suggests leaving her on the street in the compound and Sebastian finds that to be quite heartless yet somehow compellingly pragmatic.
A truck pulls into the entrance bay. The admitting policy seems quite likely to be American dollar bribery.
Raeburn eventually ordered everyone to pack up and pull out, as it looked like night was setting in and security was well, negligible to non-existent when the lights went out. Some rumor kept circulating about all the prisoners escaping from the largest prison in town, about rioters and looters, about general un-safety. How much of that was real and how much was in our alien heads wondered Emile Cange aloud and nurse practitioner Jeanette Sangosse seemed to agree. They had not toiled in the bitter wet heat and grime re-occupying this building to abandon it and hundreds of boxes of supplies that largely were fixed and committed. But, Captain Raeburn was insistent and many were scared. Few of the whites were nervous thinks Tanya T-Flame Tallbird Luv. She supposed they had already thrown themselves into this expedition, prepared somewhat for the presumed dangers mentally. They were not now afraid of the night like perhaps they should be.
“What the hell is he talking about,” exclaims Emile Cange, “if we pull out all the supplies are gonna get looted and half these people are gonna crap out.”
Sebastian watched the company draw mental lots on who would side with Emile and stay the night. Captain Raeburn didn’t really quarrel with Emile, or Dr. Jean Baptiste, or the doctor’s girlfriend Monique who were now arguing a heartfelt case to stay. The night was setting in. Finally it was asked to the assembled volunteers in the lower bay who would staff a night watch. Kevin’s hand shot up, as did medical student Jim Miranda. Of the higher medical authorities stayed Sangosse and Baptiste, his PA in training (whatever that meant) girlfriend, Monique. The fire fighter Dany Bélair and Emile Cange were the only medics. EMT Cassidy Vale was the only person who understood the quarter mastery job remained, as did EMTs Alex Furlini, Sebastian Adon who stupidly feared nothing anymore, and EMT Tanya T-Flame Tallbird Luv who sought to spirit herself away and find her family. The Scientist Leah Caro was busy with her midwifing attending to a total of four women in various stages of labor, she stayed as well.
The remainder wished them luck and pulled out on the white dented omnibus. The rescuers watched the skeleton crew of a hospital staff chain the gates, then chain the doors to the ER triage building, and an old man with a shot gun and a quasi-officious uniform posted up on a chair outside.
“This is a little crazy,” Tanya confides and repeats in Sebastian her squad leader.
“We’ve drawn a lot of attention today, word will travel we’re in here with food and supplies and it might get nasty.”
“I think it’ll be fine,” Sebastian mutters. They’re re-bandaging swollen, puss inundated dressings of a 17 year old girl with no legs.
“Well aren’t you Mr. Brightside.”
“It’s been a real bad year, something tells me our god is gonna pull a miracle max any minute now.”
“Your god, my god, the spirits, just ask for all the help we can get,” Tanya says.
Taking it back about a month Sebastian Adon was handcuffed and on his knees surrounded by Israeli border control agents at Ben Gurion Airport. He was attempting at the time to repatriate himself to warmer, more Hebrew climes, but he had both a history and high security index, as well as number of ‘questionable’ things in his bag. It had been by all accounts the beginning of a very shitty year for technician Sebastian Adon. The doors of life kept swinging closed and bloodying his face on impact. Still he prayed.
To Sebastian, god was somewhere between the force from Star Wars and a Yiddish contract negotiator. His religion, if one could call it that was vaguely Zoroastrian; a cosmic balancing act and struggle between darkness and light; as well as tinted with a large helping of cultural Judaism. His mother was an Irish atheist, his father a Russian Jew who hadn’t prayed at any time except once in Vietnam. On his knees in irons at that Israeli airport in Lod, he hadn’t tasted victory or anything close in quite some time.
EMT Sebastian Adon is a high school dropout who at the time of his arrest was roughly 16 credits over what was needed in achieving a degree in Political Science at CUNY Hunter. In the past two years his luck had taken a turn for the worst. There had been the small matter of his closest friend taking a pistol to his head the day after his 25th birthday. Jeremy McGaffey had sure as shit shown some resolve on that one. Then there had been Maria, which he had thought was love, if love caught fire and exploded in ones arms like a Palestinian. He drank quite a lot, smoked even more, toyed perpetually with the idea of poor turnout at his own funeral.
He was a pretty good EMT. That was just about all he was good at; prolonging life if just for another 15 minutes. No one, unless they blew their brains out or went and hung themselves was really ever dead to Sebastian. Even in cardiac arrest, when they got to the hospital, they got better or they went to Heaven with Jesus and the rest of the happy, basically good human race.
But Sebastian had moved to dark and uncomforting place within his mind. Sometimes on his way home after working 16 or 20 hours on the bus he’d see Jeremy in the back of his car peering out the rear view mirror at him. Sebastian wasn’t adverse to imaginary friends, but dead real friends when driving wasn’t so high in the book of sane he carries.
There are scars all over his arms and knuckles from brawls he only vaguely remembers.
In life’s game he was losing to himself. When his Jamaican friend EMT Mickhi DBrisk said let’s go to Haiti, he hadn’t totally thought the whole thing through. Like EMS in general, the saving could be redemptive at times, bring a little calm to life’s bitter grind, and surely there was an epic amount of saving to be done in Haiti.
Mickhi didn’t have a valid passport and never made it on to the plane.
A man with nothing left to lose, no lady, no joy and few friends doesn’t always make the best most calculated decisions. The fatal blow to his common sense of duty and purpose had been his deportation from a land which he still believed could have saved him. They had cuffed him, searched him, stripped him interrogated him and strung up and out. He was no true subversive, but he’d crossed the green line once or twice too much for them. In 2004 he’d gotten smuggled across the barrier wall into Balata Refugee camp in Nablus. It was his first real work as an EMT, first time he’d seen people and buildings explode from the other side’s point of view. Just two months out of his training program he worked on a Palestinian ambulance for 13 days. It cost him his security index and spot on the Tel Aviv beach. Jews have a long memory and Israelis ask all to pick clear sides.
That’s a piece of his back story, when Mickhi said ‘let’s go to Haiti to save people’ Sebastian calculated it as a last ditch effort to try and save or perhaps even destroy himself. There are anti-heroes, tragic heroes, movie heroes and the brotherhood of the blue cloth; but there are not many happy heroes for were life making them so happy, alone or with another they would perhaps not risk as much.
Working in a fetid, crumbling hospital compound with a skeleton crew with no supplies is made worse by a total lack of light. The night shift must utilize LED torches and touch tunnel like prowess to navigate the care of the approximately 340 patients in the upper and lower ward of the triage building.
Cassidy Vale with a burner strapped to his globe rummages frantically through ever diminishing supplies while Sebastian and Furlini monitor some 40 patients on all manners of make shift bedding, debreeding maggoty dressings, taking vitals, keeping everyone hydrated. The heat is not much alleviated by the night fall. Leah and Tanya attend to screaming, writhing woman on her first pregnancy who keeps curling up in a ball, bleeding from her female parts on the less than filthy floor. Hundreds of family members are curled up on card board sheets, beneath around and under the bed. Miranda puts out the idea of sticking them all in the yard, but the Haitian rescuers tell them that the family always stays with the sick. When they aren’t in the way they are helpful, they hold the blue LED burners while we work, they help pour water and orange electrolyte fluid down their loved ones wounded gullets. There’s a lot of disfigured kids, but that doesn’t phase Sebastian, little does. He takes orders from Miranda and Nurse Sangosse. The more critically injured are upstairs with the medics Dany Bélair and Emile Cange, under the instruction of Dr. Jean Baptiste.
Dr. Jean Baptiste has a private practice in Fort Greene and hot but temperamental girlfriend, Monique, who might be a PA sooner or later but gets to play one in Haiti hands on. He’s smooth guy, never gets excited or angry or frustrated. He’s got 6 emts, 2 medics, nurse Sangosse and about a dozen come and go hospital staff that stayed put with us.
Periodically there’s some bellowing at the gate as families in the hospital yard try and get their crushed and crippled family members who are dying unattended into the building. Jeanette Sangosse keeps letting them in and keeping the security guard from shooting them.
Around midnight a large crowd of youth has apparently gathered outside the hospital gates and is yelling something that most of the Creole speakers are worried about. Tanya, who still hasn’t left yet, probably won’t ‘til dawn and Furlini are sedating a small boy who is missing his left arm and leg, the remaining leg is in a make shift traction splint involving gravity and a brick.
“What are they yelling about,” asks Furlini. The lower bay has large windows which face the street.
“They’re debating with the guards out front as to whether they should kill us and take our food,” responds Tanya T-Flame Tallbird Luv.
“We don’t have much food to take.”
“They just keep yelling about whites in the hospital.”
“I felt safe until you translated that.”
They get back to work and haggle shouting continues.
Leah and Miranda yells that delivery is imminent for one of the girls in our OB. The girl has been doing a lot of bleeding. Kevin arrives with a stretcher which is an army medical cot strung onto a gurney with rope, the latest instrument of his MacGyvery. Sebastian and Kevin rush upstairs with the girl so she can deliver under the supervision of nurse Sangosse. In passing Sebastian asks Emile Cange if it’s true a mob has gathered outside to maim them.
“It’s a small but growing mob,” says Dany Bélair over hearing.
The girl passes out on the gurney, but sometime after midnight Miranda, Leah and nurse Sangosse deliver the first of several babies made that evening. As the little baby cries everyone explodes in laughter and five minutes of hope. The baby named Kitty, is wrapped in perhaps the only sheet of silver baby bunting in their supply.
When the ringer lactate runs out around 1am Kevin and Sebastian volunteer to go outside the building and get more. Dr. Jean Baptiste states he advises against it, but won’t stop them. In the darkness outside they wheel a gurney to blue light glow over a cobble stone walkway toward something called the Radiology strong room, apparently a depot for water, food and irregular supplies as per a Haitian nurse who stayed the night. As the pair roll out into night they see hundreds in a vast tent city assembled in the hospital yard. No one is taking care of them, but they’ve come here perhaps in hope the hospital would start functioning again and they’d be higher in the queue.
People call out to Sebastian and Cassidy, but they just keep moving. There are surely ten times the injured out here just in the yard, they need to come back with supplies not more patients Miranda had warned.
Radiology has no lactate ringer, but they load up with water, Motrin, bandages, IV catheters and some food. An English speaking doctor advises they might find some cases of the fluid in Pediatrics, but can’t adequately explain where that is. They roll the supplies back and go out again. The buildings look unstable, but Sebastian and Cassidy find what they are looking for after a bit of rubble scavenging.
Saline drip and ringer lactate are important not just for administering various drugs, but nearly all the patients are badly dehydrated and the sheer volume makes conventional rounds irregular. The compound is a maze of refugees, half the buildings are knocked out and the LED lights only light up the ground in front of you. There’s blood and feces on the floor, nails to snag you, but the rescuers work on.
There’s a body in front of the gate in a shallow gulley grave which Sebastian and Monique saw on their way in, but it’s apparently too dangerous to go out and move it.
At about 4am most of the patients are stable enough for half the crew to bunk out on two vacant beds kept for this purpose. It’s been a long and wretched night, but they’ve brought 3 little Haitian babies into the world and kept all in their care alive.
Furlini and Cassidy are asleep on the two cots, Miranda and Leah are still with the last pregnant woman. Dr. Jean Baptiste, Monique and nurse Sangosse are taking a rest in the chairs upstairs. Kevin is on watch with Dany Bélair and Emile by the upper ER door. Things finally slow down and that’s when the singing begins. Tanya and Sebastian hear it first.
In unison, the patients in the lower ward begin a solemn hymn. Sebastian understanding a little French can make out two words. ‘Dureanne papa’. The chorus overtakes the silence and the still.
“What are they singing,” Sebastian asks her.
“Thank you Father, it is nothing.”
And sitting there in the dark of the lower bay Sebastian realized that these people could just about bear anything and for this he admired them still more. Not for resilience but for solidarity and faith
Shatah Man Metayer has scars all over his large and chiseled body and can move through the night like a runaway slave. He’d been brought to Flatbush as a boy, murdered a few, got wrapped for one at the age of 16, did ten years upstate in Attica and then got deported back to Haiti. His gang calls him Shatah man because he’s quick to fire and never seems to miss. The men on the hill rent him out to knock down whomever angers them. He doesn’t like the day time, he kills for money and sometimes for fun. He’s always the quickest one to fire the gun. If he spoke English once he refuses to speak it anymore. Sometime in the mid-nineties it was rumored Shatah man strangled a copper with his bare hands. Snapped his neck in a dancehall because he didn’t like his lawman look.
In the darkness the Shatah man sits across from the gate to general hospital, quite curious about what these Americans have brought with them in all those buses, boxes and bags. He sits with his men apart from the angry group of kids yelling about storming the place. Not a good move he tells one them, they haven’t been here long enough to have brought enough. Scare um or kill um now an all that wealth stays put at the airport.
It was day seven about to be, and still all the youngsters watched the relief agencies and endless armada of planes bring crate after crate after crate after crate; but them crates were shiftless. They stayed at the airport with all the men with big guns from the States, Brazil and Pakistan. Shatah man told the youngsters wait and see.
“Wait and see what good things the blan bring from the crates,” he says.
Finally dawn comes as all are breaking from exhaustion. Sebastian and Monique are donning pathogen barrier suits because they want to move the body before the dawn of the second day. Dr. Jean Baptiste is adamantly against it. Not only would the two of them be alone on the street with no security, but the body surely is host to any number of contagious things. Sebastian is not one to quarrel over such things, but Monique is. She’s demanding to move the body. Sebastian figures for her its cathartic, but for him it’s a routine. You don’t leave corpses lying about in Brooklyn.
The patients are yell-asking for water, Dany Bélair looks like he needs a cigarette, but good firefighters don’t smoke. Monique is getting more adamant. Leah is finally asleep. And then the building shakes like a wave and everybody tumbles. It’s about 6:30 am when the second quake hits and everybody loses their composure. Patients tear IV lines out of their arms, a girl without legs grabs Sebastian’s arm and begs him in Haitian Creole not leave her as he yells for everyone to try and stay calm, but a stampede exodus has already begun. People are running for the door, literally dragging hospital beds outside into the yard, passing them, carrying out family members in their arms. There is look of terror in the eyes of all. Miranda yells for Cassidy to ‘pack up the goods and get out’, but there isn’t a whole lot of time to figure what to take as the structure buckles and dust flies into the air filled with hysterical screaming. Sebastian abandons any hope of getting people to stay where they are. He’s never been in an earthquake before, actually none of them have except for Miranda who went to live in California once and Leah who’s from LA like most Scientologists are.
Dany Bélair and Emile Cange are literally carrying people out of the building and pushing beds onto the street where a mob is gathering. “Just one more run and then stay out,” Miranda yells at Kevin who’s got that kid with no legs on an army stretcher, him and a stay put with us Haitian nurse. Sebastian has blood all over his FDNY job shirt, the building is no longer shaking, but it dawns on Cassidy that if it does come down its gonna take out all their supplies.
It’s Tuesday morning; does anybody know where the hospital is?
Outside the building they seemingly had occupied and re-converted into Haiti’s only functional 24 ER, is now a mad house mob scene. A pile of bleeding beds and their horrified patients. Miranda is yelling orders as it seems he’s trained for, Dr. Gary and nurse Jeanette (they’re all on a first name basis after a night like last) are now frantically running around the yard trying to re-start IVs and attend to a woman in hemorrhagic shock after she literally crawled without legs out into the yard. It’s just about the worst thing Sebastian has ever seen logistically.
A platoon of 82nd airborne guys making rounds can’t help but notice what looks like a medical zoot suit riot in the court yard of the General Hospital. They investigate, and then jump in. Four of them keep running back into the lower ER with Cassidy and Sebastian loading up supplies onto carry stretchers and dumping them in the ER parking lot near the evacuated mob scene. Everybody is fully engaged now on the last legs upon which they stand. Running and running and dumping and dumping, unsure if the building will topple, but seeing it as their duty the soldiers, Vale and Adon schlep most of what was left outside into a huge balagan of a pile. Balagan in Hebrew for your information means ‘a shit storm of a mess’.
With half their patients bleeding from open bandages, the other half freaking out from the post-quake terror the crew of rescuers keep running back to this pile of stuff Cassidy is trying to re-organize onto shelving Sebastian and a marine dragged into the lot.
“What do you need us to do brother,” a sweaty marine from Houston urges Sebastian.
His name is staff sergeant CJ. Sebastian looks at CJ and points toward the pile.
“We gotta play one of these things is just like another,” Sebastian responds.
CJ orders four of the other soldiers who just arrived to start sorting things, but they organized as they are used to man killing toys not lifesaving toys and this stuff is all alien to them. Cassidy takes charge again of the goods assigning two men to stack drugs and another two to look for ‘foley bags, IV equipment and tubing’ which they move closer to the mad house cause re-running lines is the priority. The soldiers puppy pile the cache and slowly but surely this clutter gets sorted in wild fire mode. Which is fortunate, because Tanya tells Sebastian ‘people will just start taking stuff’ if it isn’t restored quickly enough.
All that work and the operation is in shambles. Another crew of marines comes in for back up and crowd control, and media vampires roll in like flies to corpses to catch all the hysteria on CNN and PBS. I guess word got down to the airport about this fiasco up at the hospital.
Emile prays to Jesus that the day tour gets here one of these days to relieve them because they can’t hold out too much longer. They’ve all been mostly on their feet since 4pm yesterday.
More shelves get hauled into the yard, a whole quarter master has been resurrected, the marines get their first taste of medical warfare, that is to say getting drafted into the relief effort by guilt and Jesus. Sebastian looks like shit, covered in dust and blood. Cassidy throws him his canteen.
“Drink some water baby.”
Sebastian does feeling his head throb.
The worst is over, the Red Cross rolls in with collapsible stretchers. Partners for Health conscript Emile, Dany and Kevin to build a tent in the yard for the evacuees.
“The professionals are taking over now,” some smug shit bag of a Boston doctor from Medical Corps International informs Monique. Around 8am the Day Tour arrives and sees the night tour looking like death, haggard and beat.
On the behest of Monique, CJ and another marine finally bag with no tag the stiff rotting out front, but not before those media vultures take about a thousand pictures. To go with the ones they put in all the Western papers of young Haitian men looking crazed with masks over their faces. And riot porn over food drops. And hell on earth as art house photography.
With a wink and a swagger, EMT Tanya T-Flame Tallbird Luv snuck off the morning the second quake after shock, rocked the hospital and undid much of the first nights hard work. She moves now through the ruined city, mostly confident that she isn’t given away to the Captain or the volunteer leaders. She’d informed Sebastian, her nominal ‘squad leader’ and he said he’d cover for her. She was off now across the ruined, dusty city to find her grandmother’s home, make some arrangements for family members to get out of the country before the steel trap closed.
Amnesty was being granted to 30,000 plus Haitians in the States slotted for deportation, some of her family had the paper work to leave. You helped Haiti, by helping your own first was her logic. That’s how there were all these nurses and doctors in the AMHE ready to come down and help, because they’d gotten out at some point.
Poison was the island, you might be proud to be a thing, like Tanya was to be Haitian, but you couldn’t ever say things had been good here for anyone. There was always someone trying to tear something out and cart it away, scheme or profit off the people. It wasn’t hard to love this place, but you had to seek it out.
Otherwise all the death, suffering and tears would blind you to the goodness and resilience of the people. Off Tanya goes to find her family home, not sure it’s there, not sure who’s dead or alive. She walks by the crumpled Presidential Palace, a ruin and a rubble strewn mess, the plaza square now another tent city. But, under the tarps and dirty sheets of the sprawl she sees and remembers that no one for a moment has truly been broken and her people are getting up, shaking off the dust and soldiering on like they’ve done before.
There’s a mother singing to her little baby in a tent she passes, a make shift barber shop in another, in another kids around a radio listening to Kompa music. She’ll find her family she thinks. Jesus tells her that her family is still alive and the quake didn’t’ hit her house. Jesus and the spirits have never lied or have betrayed her before.
JANUARY 20, 2010 from the journal of EMT Dominich Asbun.
About images: in Camera Lucida the dude says something like, “Whereas in the mid- and early 20th Century we were a nation of ideals, now we’ve become a nation of images.” Try separating yourself from what you think of yourself; Goddamn, and now we keep hearing what the US media is reporting: looting/riot, one in a million saved people amazing miracle stories, the aftershocks still coming strong. Yes, but it’s hard being here and feeling like you can break it down like that. We’ve felt protected the whole time, especially now with Army everywhere at the hospital, and we could write an encyclopedia on miracles (and the opposite), and the 6.2 quake of this morning was a tremor for us, small, out there in District Santo, moved yesterday – me and my group are still at home and hearing a lot of conflicting information about the aftershock but it was still big, the kids working overnight at the hospital felt it strong, they say. So things are thick out here for sure; I guess packaging it into headlines just feels like you’re cheating someone of something. I don’t know.
It’s strange because after all the psychological preparation I did I find that this isn’t emotionally as tolling as I thought. I guess I haven’t been much exposed to the death of it (yet?), oh boy I’ve seen the pain but my role in it is proactive, and I think the purpose and system (ha) and busyness of it all keeps your mind working and concentrated on the next wound, the next broken bone, holding the next hand while the kid trusts you but screams. And when you’re done you’re so tired it ain’t hard to sleep, and you wake up feeling the urgency of everything still and make your way back to the wounds.
Spent like an hour or so changing Mickhi Something’s wounds – 8 year old with degloved right leg, degloved right hand, some exposed bone, abrasion on left buttocks taking up the whole cheek, large abrasion lower back, 3 cm X 2 cm laceration back of head, a hole that took off half his nose and upper lip, hard as fuck to get a line and an infection that pusses just about everywhere open and makes him hot, very very hot to touch. I was starving and thirsty and needed a seat, but changing the dressings by flashlight (generator out), the child’s father holding the flashlight for me, helped me turn to him and smile, the way the kid smiles. “The Haitians are some of the strongest people I know,” said one of the doctors the first day, and seeing Mickhi’s dad sleeping under his son’s “hospital bed” on a flattened cardboard box I see the doctor was right. Maybe you see the trauma of it all more clearly in writing; maybe I said it hasn’t been as emotionally tolling as I’d expected, but the emotion knows how to find you anyway. “Ain’t no reason things are this way, its how they’ve always been and they intend to stay.” Going to check on Mickhi tomorrow, when we get back to the hospital.
I said coming to Haiti reminds me, certain elements of it, of a general Entering the Third World – but here, now, in a lot of ways it’s like you take those elements and intensify them a hundred-fold. Things are broken and crumbled everywhere; daily living is so raw sometimes that all the life pushing through feels that much more taut. It’s bold the way a freak accident is, and people push on even harder and the beauty and strength of it comes through even brighter and even bleaker than it does in other dire situations in Third World countries I’ve seen. Gotta stop giving myself so much credit: these things, in different ways, happen in a million places, and there are some big differences between peaceful, systematic poverty and disaster or war-torn poverty. I’m learning. El Inflatable Perro here is a small frame of bones draped with a gray or tan and black or white, loose coat of hair.
We’re still outside after the tremor, people are getting their hair cut with a generator, I’d go if it wasn’t $5, should’ve buzzed it before coming. Yesterday was only Day 3 out of the US, but we are already thinking in terms of, “Hey, I heard there’s a bathroom down that hallway across from the ER.” “Oh shit, word?” “Yeah, and with a toilet that flushes!” Last night after the generator pumped enough water up I took the first shower since I’ve been here, and I don’t think I remember being so dirty before, what with the sweat and dust and blood and sweat and dust and all. I pull pieces of charcoal from my nose.
Last night Raeburn brought a box into our ER/triage thing (working out hella nice, though people and experience still short – I’ve put in lines and set casts and dispensed intramuscular antibiotics – more on that later) and the box was full of Humanitarian Aid meals from the US.
Seen the Bolivian UN twice now, ¡Viva Bolivia! Jimmy Severe is teaching me Creole.
“Jimmy apran’n mwen pale kreyol.”
Sebastian paces the yard of the new compound, the night is a balm most generally on the senses assaulted all day. The Tabarre base was deemed indefensible by Mr. Whitley and Gardel the newly appointed head of our security. Mr. Whitley appears to be the rescuers fixer. He is calculated man, calmly taking everyone’s questions and nearly always on the phone arranging transport, setting up meetings stop gapping problems. Like most of 104 volunteers neither he nor Gardel were members of the Bedford Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Company prior to embankment. He was someone making use of their pipeline. Actually besides from Cassidy Vale and Captain Raeburn it was unclear if anyone was previously affiliated with Bedstuy. Certainly not a single one of the nurses or doctors from Haitian Physicians Abroad, and most of the EMS seemed self-deployed. The details of the triumvirate were a marriage of connivance shrouded in murky intrigue. Before they bedded down Sebastian, Miranda and Cassidy share rumors.
Apparently the Scientologists have paid for just about everything. Both safe houses are properties they own, the charter plane was a cost they shouldered. All of these crates of water and Cliff Bars they paid for too. It bothers Miranda, but the others don’t seem to care. It looks like most of the back end negotiations are being handled by Dr. Hinge and Dr. William Savoy from the Physicians Association, they and Mr. Whitley seem like gate keepers. Because of their respective NAVY and FDNY affiliations Miranda and Adon had been brought Along to meet with Health Minister Dr. Alex Larsen granting the triumvirate NGO status at the General Hospital the previous day.
So Bedstuy had put out the call, the Physicians Association had provided the legitimacy and the more highly trained personnel and the Scientists had paid for everything. Most of the EMS crews from day one have been snickering about the ‘alien cult’. Cassidy overheard Mr. Whitley (whose full and proper name is Whitley Dessalines) on the phone talking about how we ought sever contacts with the ‘Sci-Tys’ lest all our work get ignored by the mainstream press. Miranda was told by Monique and Dr. Jean Baptiste that the Physicians Association wanted little to do with them either.
“They seem nice enough, I don’t know what the big deal is,” mutters Cassidy half way to sleep by now.
They did seem nice enough. Leah Caro had worked all night with them in the trenches. Hadas was preparing to negotiate some kind of patient exchange between the Israeli Military Hospital in the Industrial District. Cash Cassalus and Larry Rusche; their apparent leaders seemed highly on top of their game. But why they were in Haiti was quite unclear. ‘To help like everyone else,’ was the basic response. Also something about the ‘eight dynamics’ which sounded real logical, largely about the overlapping needs of humanity as the Maslow hierarchy of needs gets met exponentially. Sebastian introduced himself to a few of them, a film maker named Michael who looks quite a bit like some celebrity whose name Sebastian can’t place. Larry, who wears what looks like a blue train conductors hat has a daughter somewhere on the island working in a place called the Hotel Olofsen. Apparently she’s a talented writer, came to write a book about Haiti a day before the quake hit. Larry seems to pace around deep in thought, constantly checking in with the other Scientists each assigned to various ‘working groups’. He shows Sebastian and Cassidy a photo of his daughter Phoebe. It’s like Hollywood moment, because she still doesn’t know he’s here.
Quite a lot of what they do is straight out of LA, their talking patterns seem highly focused, their lines of reasoning systematically turning over ‘data’. It’s like getting the cast of Star Trek to act like they live in Beverly Hills was Miranda’s summary.
“Bedstuy sent us in before their regular members. Looks like most didn’t have passports. The Scientists needed Bedstuy and AMHE to legitimize their presence,” says a light skinned Haitian volunteer with thick black glasses joining them on the balcony of the two story pastel stucco villa.
“The Scientologists had the plane, but needed a black medical contingent. AMHE needed a plane and had one provided. Bedstuy put out al call and you all valiantly responded. And here we all are. My name is Rouis Hinge Jr.”
He sticks out his hand and Miranda, Cassidy and Adon all shake it.
“I am making a film about the relief effort,” he states, “my father said you all worked very hard last night. We thank you for your service to Haiti.”
Mr. Whitley, wearing a black and red leather jacket comes to collect Lou. They are off to the airport, they plan to stick a video camera in the face of a wide range of NGOs and embarrass them into mobilizing supplies off the airstrip and into the city.
Sebastian awakes after just four hours of sleep and finds Larry Rusche standing under a large tree watching Gardelle the head of security sever several coconuts from the upper branches with a machete. The make a dull plop as they strike the soil below. He has a salt and pepper beard.
“Bon jou mon frere,” Gardelle says waving down at Sebastian.
Gardelle owns a flower shop in Brooklyn, hasn’t been on Island since he was boy; that was 40 years ago. Papa Doc the dictator still Francois Duvalier, a former health minister disappeared his father for disloyalty. Had the secret police cut off his arms and legs and threw him in a ditch along the highway to Dominican Republic. Gardelle came to Brooklyn with his brother and mother and never looked back. He’d unflinchingly thrown himself into getting supplies down to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and he did the same for this calamity. It was unclear why Mr. Whitley appointed him head of security, but he never missed a detail. Although as long gone from the island as any of the others, he fundamentally understood the people better than most seemed to.
Sebastian watched him lob and chisel the top of the coconut holding it one hand and striking the top with the long swing of the blade. Larry the Scientist, being a quirk wanders off with his coconut perhaps attempting to devise an alternative means to extract the juice.
Sebastian asks Gardelle to let him try. Gardelle attempts to dissuade him.
“Many a Haitian youngin’ has lost them some fingers playin’ this game untrained.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“You’d better be, it’d be a short career as an EMT with only one hand.”
“I’ll be careful,” he repeats, “just tell me what to do.”
“Ya gotta take the coconut in yer left hand, I assume yer right handed. Get yer fingers around it, but cup um tight behind where you’re gonna strike, one wrong move and ya lose digits.”
He makes the strike in slow motion, twice before passing it off.
“You got’a aim with your eyes not with your hand, striking around the cap, cracking the shell systematic in a circle. Now watch carefully.”
Gardelle brings the blade down in quick successive movements turning the shell in his hand. Nine quick strikes and the meat is exposed. He passes the coconut to Sebastian to inspect and partake. Sebastian tries to pass it back, but Gardelle urges him to drink.
“The machete is a part of our history. The slave masters gave um to us for agriculture, to put seedling holes in the soil and to cut the cane. These instruments of our servitude were the earliest weapons in the revolution. Bands of slaves sneaking up to the plantation house to cut off the heads of the master’s sleeping family.”
“Well no one wants to be a slave,” was Sebastian’s response.
Sebastian remembers all he had ever learned about the Haitian revolution and could chalk it up into two sentences. Toussaint L’Ouvature raised an army of freed slaves sometime shortly after the French revolution. They had killed all the white people on the island and plunged Haiti into 200 years of cruel poverty and isolation. But, knowing that it probably was better than being a slave.
“No one, no one ever can tolerate being a slave very long,” Gardelle continues, “you can make a person into a zombie, but even a zombie remembers at some point, if only in a rumor, what it was once like to be alive; so does the slave in a dream remember being free. He remembers this idea of how he could have lived if he hadn’t been born in chains.”
“This is storied island Mr. Gardelle.”
“You should be proud to be a white on the right side of that story for once.”
“Oh, I’m not really a white, I’m a Jewish.”
“You know the color of thing never has mattered to a Haitian, just his intentions on the island. There’s always been a handful of whites here. Hell a few thousand Polish fought on the black side during the war for independence. Historians wanna make this a race war island cause we killed most of the whites during the revolution, but most of the whites kept singing no slavery, no colony and no one liked that tune one bit.”
“I don’t ever really try and moralize history Mr. Gardelle.”
“Let more tell you one thing, we Haitians fear nothing.”
When Sebastian finally goes to sleep, he dreams about ambulances. Ambulances flying about Bedstuy at all hours of the night like safe light, red glow flies above a festering wound. He also dreams about his Zoe, how calming it might feel kissing her lips. The balcony where he and Cassidy have made their bunks overlooks a half-finished compound with shirtless, emaciated little kids playing in rubble, dust and muck.
January 18th, 2010: Asbun diary.
“We got to the hospital yesterday after the aftershock and they’d moved most the patients outside. Throw in the Red Cross, IMC, PIH, MSF and the other groups of the NGO soup, media, militaries, me, the people putting on medical gowns and sneaking into the hospital in search of work, and, fuck it, even some firefighters from Europe or the Mid-West into the hundreds of people hurting and waiting, hoping to get better and out of there.
So we spent the first hella hot like four hours caring for people in the sun. Giving morphine like a holy grail to limbless wailing masses, sweating through ya boots, just about, outdoor surgery and femur fracture traction with cinder blocks and people missing calves and a cut from the hip to the ankle like an anatomy lesson; people flirting and people yelping and people chasing Anderson Cooper and his cameras, people, people, people, the OB team giving birth outside and we’re trying to sneak a view, we’re running through wounds like words at a spelling bee, doing more in one day than some EMT’s do in their lives. Still feel like we can handle anything, despite the exhaustion – imagine giving a 12-year-old Halloween ‘soldier’ a real tank to drive to school. Got to make sure to pay all attention and ask all questions before doing these things we ain’t learned; it’s exciting and empowering to help people so directly and in such an involved way, but you don’t keep a solid eye on your humbleness and you’ll be hurting someone who needs no more of pain, though she’s singing as you stick your finger through the incision into her stomach to clean the infection. We walk around with a hundred pockets and backpacks full of supplies, strapped with that purpose and presence and sooner or later it’s hard not to feel like you’re filling into some part of something. Guess we are a part of something, oui? People who worked that overnight of the aftershock said when second quake hit it was chaos, people running outside like they still had both legs, ripping out IV lines, craziness. Those kids had it tough – they then had to move everything out.
I asked about the ’lil kid and heard he was one of the first to go to surgery after they started operating, hope he pulls through. Found a patient on a bed outside waiting for attention with like three right lower leg fractures, bone protruding on both sides of leg, left femoral fracture without traction. Glad to get him to pre-op soon, splinted with casting. I’ve run into some death already. Worked ourselves numb but somehow felt we paced ourselves and found people to laugh with, laugh at, drink water. The variety is nice, people’s energy and how strong they push through and all the crazy things we’re seeing and absorbing and loving apart from what we’re pushing through ourselves makes it a silently growing, giant of an experience. Bonjour Papiiiii, from the crazy lady from two days ago, her foot’s worse, and I’m saying Bonjour Mammmiiii. Found out the husband of that pretty, pretty girl who’s been around for a few days was under rubble for three days before they pulled him out; he says his eye popped out and he put it back in. Fuck not with Haitians. This is from driving back the first night from the hospital, looking out the open back of the taptap:
It’s dark and dust from the road swells behind us, the cars behind with headlights like flashlights highlighting the endless silhouettes of homelessness on the streets; tires burning, people on bicycles, people selling mango or loaves of bread or something in the dark. These shadows come and go the way the shapes of buildings buckled to sections and still crumbling come and go, leaning power lines and car exhaust and the way we ourselves pile into a bus or van or taptap and come, and go. I’ve seen the presidential palace and it is destroyed – it is one thing to marvel at how big man can build, but it’s another, significantly more astounding thing entirely to see it fallen.
Sammy Sultan has friends who have friends here who’re about to pick us up and drive us to a few addresses, we’re trying to find people that have family in the US (who we know) that haven’t been able to get in touch with them. A bunch of people are hella anxious to go home – home to real showers and real shits and the freedom to cook or buy McDonald’s, to use a mattress – and they’re leaving tomorrow probably, or the next day or talk about how long they can stay down her while bills pile up back in the states. Me and Sammy been hanging out all day, drove around a ’lil in the van back from dropping people at the hospital and now back at the compound waiting on the ride, our friends’ friends. We took a walk and exchanged Clif and Balance Bars for candy and a sharpening of our knives. No luck with the mangos though, and I’ve got to pick up money from Western Union. Sitting by a mango tree barefoot, trying to get blood off my boots.
On Wednesday, Hadas Hadaad, EMT Sebastian Adon and Dr. William Gibbs, Along with Paramedic Emile Cange all took a TapTap mini-truck over to the Industrial District, north of the airport to negotiate patient exchanges between, the now basically functional General Hospital. Since the debacle of the second big quake on Tuesday morning, increased media frenzy had drawn in an increased medical response. The son of famous Dr. Louis Hinge, leader of the AMHE, Lou Jr. and the clandestine character who knew everybody Mr. Whitley, took a film crew down to the airport and the UN Compound filming lots of agencies sitting on their hands and asking uncomfortable questions got a ton of cameras and aid trucked over to the General Hospital. By the time the Night Shift returned to duty Wednesday night, a 24 hour OB had been set up by a crack team of Cuban nurses, Red Cross Canada, Switzerland, and Norway had dug in deep, and a few dozen Haitian nurses, PAs, and technicians had taken over posts and tents partners for Health was operating by day.
There was a phenomenon which Partners for Health called ‘freelancing’ which was apparently occurring in Haiti on an unprecedented scale. Groups not traditionally linked with the powerhouse NGOs had self-deployed and set up a slew of ad-hock operations all over the city which were laden with first timers and nearly all fueled by self-righteous, self-important recklessness. The largest of these freelance operations was certainly the Bedstuy-AMHE-Scientologist agitations happening around the overnight medical squads.
They were a thorn in the PR side of the traditional players because all of the traditional players were cognizant that the all civilian, all green to disaster, nearly all Haitian staff would engage in projects that would fail to separate fact on the ground from emotion in their hearts.
Red Cross, UN agencies, Partners for Health and all the others had been down in Haiti for years, this was not gonna be a quick and easy rescue mission. When freelancers jump into the game you set up a dynamic where the expectations of the population can be raised far faster than the logistics of the agencies can accommodate. And that can lead to a scary dynamic.
Mr. Whitley had suggested Sebastian might get Hadas out of her yellow scientist uniform with its cross of the eight dynamics and into a blue-black EMS uniform. Emile smirked as Sebastian haggled with her for what seemed like an hour on the TapTap ride over. Eventually she begrudgingly put on his blue Station 35 t-shirt, which wasn’t uniform, but looked official enough. Something about the yellow Sci-Ty Volunteer Minister shirts and jackets were creepy, to Sebastian and Mr. Whitley. “Like bees swarming our blood honey,” the sly fixer had muttered.
The Israelis seemed incredibly organized, no surprise, Adon and Hadaad great Ethiopian Jewish special forces soldiers at the perimeter gate in Hebrew. The taptap is waved through.
The base is large, functional and well regimented. It even has plastic surgeons and a Neo-Natal unit. Hadas is speaking Hebrew, and Sebastian speaking rough-and tumble charming sat Wednesday morning with Dr. Baar and Colonel Kreiss of the Israeli Military contingent explaining the night operations and attempt to reestablish a Haitian controlled medical facility at the heart of town. The Colonel, impressed as he was with this son and daughter of Israel way out, unsupported in this madness had to tell them it was unlikely if the Army Hospital would be there after Tuesday coming. It was a stop gap measure.
I think all of us were appalled inside to hear that.
But, he agreed to a 3 for 3 exchange each day as long as they were on the ground. The Israeli Army Hospital had everything; neo-natal, advanced surgery, all the facilities of a modern hospital with 300 beds erected in a field in a rough, quasi-defensible district near infamous Citi Solei. As Dr. Bar and Dr. Gibbs reviewed which stable green patients might get traded for three critical red patients, Sebastian stood impressed with the tribe from which he’d three weeks ago been forcefully excluded. It was PR where they could get it, and most likely they’d break it all down in a week, but the speed behind the set up was mind blowing. Getting all this here so quickly. But then leaving after barely two weeks on the ground? For what?
The 3 stable patients were to be loaded on to a bread truck staffed by four fire fighter paramedics from Miami lead by a young man named Eric Alvarez. Alvarez and his little band of brothers had gotten into D R, the day after the quake, bought a bread truck and driven it over the border. They were now a makeshift ambulance with military carry stretchers secured to the back of the rig.
They’d take our team back to General Hospital then move three of our less stable patients back to the field hospital. Great guys, crazy motherfuckers. Running a four man non-stop ALS unit out of a bread truck. We exchanged numbers.
Dr. Gibbs helped selected the most unstable patients to send back to the Israelis. The General hospital seemed overwhelmed with NGO medical groups seeing up tents throughout the compound. Partners in Health, International Medical Corps, MSF, Red Cross, Red Crescent, and tons of others. All pretty much doing their own thing. There was no shortage of work to be done.
A lot of amputations were happening. I saw the doctors come out the orthopedic building and looked like death. They, and others cut off a lot of arms and legs. In a few days they’d go back to MIA. No moral judgments or ethics. Infected crush injuries with sepsis equals death. But they cut off all these legs, maybe gave the Haitian patient anesthetics, probably not.
And now our ER is filled up with lots of people that are malnourished, dehydrated and have infection and incredible pain from limbs cut off a couple days ago.
I’m new at his. The triage thing.
Later, Sebastian sits with Cassidy Vale at the Spanish pumping station, where belching bladders and whirring clicks pull water out the ground and make it safe to drink. Sebastian has befriended a few of these Spaniard rescue engineers and explains with his hands how he and the others go home at the end of the week it might as well be as if they never even came.
Fire fighter, water engineer Juan Suarez and his boss Tomas listen to this little palaver quite impressed with these reckless Americans. Cowboys, every single one of them.
“So we clean out and secure a hospital, but then the ground moves and we gotta relocate into Partner for Health tents, then this place swarms up with NGO medical workers working with no rhyme or reason; you know what that tells me?” Sebastian asks.
“What does that tell you baby?” smirks Cassidy taking a fifteen minute break from his work in the new strong box quarter mastery Monique is pulling together with some Scientists and Haitian hospital staff. He’s made her promise that after today, no more quarter mastering, he’s actually here for patient care.
“It tells me that when we’re gone all the usual players play all the usual games. This little guerrilla union of healthcare providers is gonna have a pretty short shelf life me thinks.”
“Let me remind you that as much as it may go against your ideals, they are the professionals, they are the ones that stay here for the duration. And we are volunteers here on good will, and immediate need. It won’t even be legal for us to be here doing this in a few weeks, well a few months.”
“This country has been pretty horror show for the duration, before and after that quake massive. As if one purpose?”
“I see little gears in your head turning baby, and before you say anymore, let me advise you that on Saturday I’m gonna pull out with the others when the second wave comes in.”
“I have a bad, but needed idea.”
“I can tell you it’s a really bad, bad idea if it doesn’t involve you sitting in the seat next to me on that plane ride home.”
“We need to leave something behind they can use. We need to enlist these tent camp kids, these patient family members and organize ‘um into a guerilla EMS force.”
“That is a terribly noble idea, but I assure you your aims will make you juggle fire, then burn apart. This place cursed,” interjects Spanish Fire Fighter Juan Suarez from Madrid whom they’d met in the first hour of their landing on the tarmac.
Helped him and his team unload their crates of gear at the airport.
“Well I can’t say I got much back in New York that I can’t part with.”
There was something that clicked in Cassidy’s head too at that moment. I mean he was a bar back, living on his uncles couch with a girlfriend in Baltimore who he liked, but didn’t necessarily love or want to marry, and here for three days it’d been the life and death, true blue hero stuff he’d thought EMS was made of. So, you ran off to some beleaguered alien land and you did something daring, and one thing followed another and the life you led before, had its volume turned way down; and the drum beats and the death, and what you felt was noble in your heart drew Cassidy to this place as well.
“Well, Bueno. Let’s hear this stupid also crazy plan of yours Mr. Adon,” encourages Tomas the Spanish Hydraulic Engineer.
“So, it goes simple and sweet,” Sebastian smirks lighting up his billionth cigarette so it seems as though he delivers healthcare in an endless plume of smoke.
“We tell all these shiftless, traumatized tent kids and all the family members milling around waiting and tell them that were gonna have a tryout-training for a makeshift EMS class Friday, that will give them skills and knowledge to become an all Haitian Volunteer Rescue service.”
Juan and his boss grin in the wet, hot pumping station. America, the cowboy nation manifested before them, but they were well meaning these little cowboys when they didn’t have guns.
“And who is going to sanction this little operation, pay for it, equip it, you know hand out the certificates to all these newly to be trained Haitian EMTs?” Cassidy Vale asks.
“Well I suppose the same people that were presumptuous enough to bring an end to slavery and make the country free, well free-ish.” They look at him eye brows raised. “Well, I mean without white people tellin’ um what to do.”
“Oh, the Haitian people themselves you mean?” asks Cassidy.
“Well, not to state the obvious, but that equation hasn’t worked out so well ever,” states Cassidy Vale.
“Well call me Mr. Brightside,” Sebastian responds.
“Stop referencing a pop song to mollify your madness,” says Cassidy.
And in the mind’s eye of Cassidy Vale, without knowing it his one week rescue mission extended itself exponentially.
“Well hermanos, what do you need from us,” asks Spanish Fire fighter Juan Suarez.
“Well,” says Sebastian, “we actually need all the help you’re willing to give.”
My name is Phoebe Rusche, I arrived in Haiti the day before the earthquake. I am staying at the Olofsen Hotel working as a masseuse. The woman I traveled here with is named Maya Sorieya Solomon and she has been in long, endless meetings with Richard Morse the hotel’s general manager I know not over what.
After dinner I join Will and Gaston on the driveway for a jam session. We pass by three men in identical orange t-shirts. “Who are those guys?” William asks.
I shrug. “Missionaries?”
William plays guitar while I sing ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles and Gaston harmonizes in falsetto. I close my eyes. When I open them, Richard is standing by our circle of deck chairs.
“Hey, Phoebe, can you come with me a second?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say, feeling like a pupil about to be reprimanded. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I just want you to meet someone.”
I am big headed for a moment as we walk up the steps of the Olofsen. Richard Morse wants to introduce me to someone. Well, shit.
Richard leads me toward a man in a yellow t-shirt and conductor hat sitting in the lobby. “Pleased to meet you,” he says.
My sense of reality lurches and shifts like a tilt-a-whirl.
My dad is in Port-au-Prince.
Dad has been in the country since Sunday. As soon as he heard about the earthquake, he arranged his flight through Scientology Volunteer Ministries.
“Give me a moment,” I say, sitting down. “This is all just a little too weird for me. I mean, why didn’t you tell me you were in the country?”
“It was supposed to be a surprise,” dad says. “You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want.”
“No, I do. Just give me a minute.” I run down to the driveway to say goodbye to Will and Isabelle.
The Scientologists are sharing a compound with the Haitian American Association of Physicians and a group of (mostly Haitian) EMTs from Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York. How these people came to be working together, I’m not sure. Neither are they. (I asked.)
The compound was meant to be a private residence, completed but unfurnished at the time of the quake, and given to the Scientologists for free. A Haitian model home, complete with coils of razor wire topping the fence. Like the rest of the country at present, it’s a pajama party under the stars.
The next morning Dad introduced me to Gardelle, a Haitian man with a salt and pepper beard who runs a flower shop in Brooklyn. “So you are going to General Hospital today?” he asked. “Are you sure you want to do that?”
“I know some medical stuff,” I said. “From my massage training. I might be able to assist the nurses. At least, I can hold people’s hands or bring them water.”
“Prepare yourself,” Gardelle said. His eyes met mine. “Mentally. You freak out, you become a problem.”
“There are people with wounds on their arms, legs, could have been fixed in the first couple days with Neosporin and gauze,” he said. “Now there are maggots crawling in them and the limbs have to be amputated. Are you ready for that?”
Perverse as it may sound, yes. Not because I’m a particularly strong person, but because I am no longer processing things as I’m experiencing them. We just passed a dead body rotting in the sun? Oh. I missed it. Do you have an extra power bar? I’m starving. Thank you.
Our heads can only wrap themselves around so much horror before they return to the selfish and mundane.
My first day at General Hospital, I spent eight hours unpacking boxes of supplies and helping to organize the pharmacy. The next day, I spent thirty minutes throwing everything- Ibuprofen injections, catheters, bags of saline, baby formula- haphazardly onto stretchers for the EMTs to carry outside.
After the second earthquake, the 6.1, all the patients were evacuated in under an hour. When I arrived at General Hospital, what I saw was another tent-city, this one populated by amputees, flies dancing on their plaster casts and ulcerated wounds, flying in morbid haloes around head scrapes. There weren’t enough poles to hold up the tarp, so doctors and nurses had to squat where the canvas hung low, held together by extra IV tubing.
Monique, a tiny physician’s assistant from Miami, and her Haitian boyfriend Dr. Baptiste were quick to enlist my help behind the nursing station. I wanted to go around giving water to the patients who were starving in the sun, receiving little to no aftercare from the overworked staff, but Monique explained to me that without knowledge of each patient’s particular condition, performing this simple act could kill them.
“I need this pharmacy organized,” Monique panted, wiping her forehead with the back of a French-manicured hand. “I need this to look like the states, or they’re gonna shut me down.”
“What do you mean, shut you down?”
“They’re not gonna send me any more supplies unless I can get this shit in some kind of order.”
With all the aid being delivered, antibiotics and diapers, colostomy bags and syringes, had been thrown onto counters and into corners with no regard as to what they were. More and more boxes kept coming in every minute. Monique swept a motley pile of medical supplies off a table and said, “Here, here’s your station. Babies and wound care. Everything baby, everything wounds, you’re our girl.”
“But- but-” I stammered, not wanting to stash things arbitrarily. “Uh, where do you want everything?”
“It’s on you, girl. Just make sure shit’s visible, we can see what it is, we grab it. You understand?” She stepped over a mountain of tampons to answer the query of a nurse at the window and I set to slashing open a box of sterile alcohol swabs. The nurse needed several bags of lactated ringers to start IVs. Monique shrugged apologetically. “I’m sorry sweetheart, I don’t have it.”
“Can I come in and look for it?”
Monique shook her head. “Soon as I get this organized, anything you need sweetie, I get it for you, no problem.”
“This is my country,” the nurse said. “I am Haitian. I want to come inside and look for the supplies.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. It’s my job to secure this station.”
The nurse began to curse Monique out in Creole. Monique threw up her hands defensively. “Look, honey, I speak patois, not Creole, my mom’s from Montserrat, so I don’t even know what you’re calling me. I could have the cure to AIDs in these boxes and not know it, you understand? I don’t even know what’s in these boxes. Soon as I do, I help you, no problem.”
The nurse sighed and walked away.
At first I found Monique’s control-station routine self-important. But as we continued working together, becoming more and more symbiotic, I came to understand her better. The Haitian nurse certainly wasn’t going to steal supplies. But there were plenty of hustlers, kids in their early twenties, wandering around the hospital posing as nurses or, even more dubiously, cops. And Monique and Dr. Baptiste had spent the past three days in a row at General Hospital.
When all the Red Cross people and Bed-Stuy EMTs went home at nightfall, leaving the thousands of patients they had worked so hard to save during the daytime, only Monique and Jean-Baptiste stayed to follow-up with a handful of nightshift EMTs. Only Monique and Jean-Baptiste drifted asleep to the sounds of their moans and supplications. To the sound of traumatized people dying mostly alone.
I am not a Monique or a Jean Baptiste. I am not Sebastian Adon, a twenty-something EMT who has saved lives all over the world, worked with both Israeli and Palestinian patients during times of crisis, is now running around the clock to arrange patient exchanges with the Brazilians and the naval hospital and seems to believe that if Haiti does not successfully transition to democracy in the wake of this disaster, he will have failed the Haitian people.
I need to take naps. I need to shower. I need to listen to my iPod and stare at the ceiling and think of nothing and be of no use to anyone.
But I could be Sebastian Adon. We all could be, if we were willing to sacrifice some part of our soul, the part that preserves itself. I am not ready to do that, and don’t know if I ever will be. But someone has to be Sebastian Adon.
Someone has to stay at General Hospital at night. Someone has to clean the shit out of the bedpans, and sleep one hour a night, and subsist on nothing but power bars and water. Someone has to put in the time needed to truly rebuild Haiti.
Last week I overheard an exchange between one of the Oloffson’s waitresses and a hotel patron that I misinterpreted to be a complaint about the slow service. Feeling protective of the establishment I’ve grown to love, and not a little self-righteous anger, I told the man that he just had to be patient. He turned to me and said, “I wasn’t talking to you, and I wasn’t complaining. You don’t even know what I was saying. And anyway, who the fuck are you? I am Haitian. This is my country.”
I spent an hour afterward feeling stupid and chastened, but also pissed. It was wrong of me to butt in, to misdirect my personal annoyance in a country full of mourning, agitated, angry people. But what did me being American, and him being Haitian, have to do with it?
My interactions with the Bed-Stuy EMS team helped me to place this interaction in context. Most of them are members of the diaspora community. For many, this is their first time back in many years, and to see the beautiful landscape of their memory so twisted into ugliness is shocking. They left their country, but they care enough to come back and use the credibility afforded by their American educations to try to fix it, at this critical juncture, while everything hangs in the balance, while Haiti has a police force but no government, hundreds of foreign organizations but none that will stay past the end of next month, a U.N. presence but not one that does more than charge them to drive around in armored trucks holding shiny toy guns.
I don’t understand the U.N. Why spend such massive amounts of money just to throw your weight around, either here or in a place where men are being killed through acts of man rather than God, like Darfur?
Either shit or get off the pot?
The hotel patron and Haitian nurse were right. It is their country, they are the ones who will be here long after the pageant of largesse is over and we have returned to our lives. Who the fuck are we?
There is need for humility in service.
From the window of the nursing station where Monique showed me the ropes (“a nurse asks for sodium chloride, you think saline, you think Pamela Anderson. Oh, you need a Pamela? Coming right up!”) I watched a seventeen year old boy talking on his cell phone from his hospital bed. Both his legs were amputated above the knees.
One of the biggest problems I can foresee facing Haiti is an entire generation of disabled youth unable to participate in an already crippled and jobless economy. An entire generation of lives being saved so they can hobble in the streets and beg.
I shared my thoughts with Monique. We agreed that we would start writing proposals for grants as soon as possible to start a school for children and young adults disabled by the quake, to give them vocational training and a way of supporting themselves.
“If there’s one good thing coming out of all this,” Monique said, “I think it’s making a lot of folks realize their purpose. Where God needs them to be.”
A man with a grey beard and a stethoscope around his neck came to the window. “I have some bad news,” he said. “Tell all your friends your work has been for nothing. The building is structurally unsound. We have to evacuate.”
“I must be imagining this shit,” Monique said, voice hoarse. “Did he just say what he just said? Fucking Haitian political bullshit,” she hissed in my ear. “They don’t like that a little P.A. bitch and her boyfriend are running this joint, it makes them look bad. So they’re shutting us down.” She shook her head. “We have to remain calm, we have to pretend nothing is happening or the patients will freak out, you understand? If I tell the others what that doctor just said, will you back me up?”
I nodded, although I didn’t really understand what was going on. There had been another aftershock that morning, and there was a leak in one of the back rooms ominously gushing water. But from the way Monique was talking, it sounded like she thought no one would believe the evacuation order wasn’t a figment of her imagination.
She told Baptiste. He took her to see the doctor who had given the order. The doctor was in an office, feet on the desk, eating. None of the staff had eaten all day. The doctor denied giving the order. Said Monique was dehydrated and delusional.
Baptiste made us leave the building anyway, for good measure.
The next day we cleared out the pharmacy we had worked so hard to stock.
Afterwards I gave a massage to a woman about to go into labor. My Latex gloves snagged her skin uncomfortably so she ended up just laying her head in my lap while she panted in the heat and pleaded with a doctor to change her pad.
Women cannot produce breast milk during periods of intense stress. In the midst of so much death (the smell sulphurous and pervasive, like bad eggs) our bodies refuse to support life. In the pharmacy, before our work was summarily undone, we had four bottles of formula for newborns but no nipples. In the maternity tent, there was no formula at all.
Now that the Scientologist Volunteer Ministers have been granted NGO status my dad can move off the compound and into a tent at the airport. Returning to the Olofsen this morning was like returning home. It’s good to be back with the sequined Vodoun flags and sculptures of breast-feeding mermaids and it’s good, I will admit, to regain some separation from everything out there. To decompress.
Like I said, we are not all Sebastian Adon. This experience is teaching me my own limits, not only of what I am actually qualified for but how much I am willing to give. I spent most of my second day at General Hospital just sitting around, knowing I could find something to do if I wanted it badly enough.
There is a job to be done. Who will do it? Who will sacrifice their limits?”
There had been a little light insubordination that night. It was Friday, the Friday of the now much talked about enlistment where the towering Fitz LaForrest, Sebastian, and Tiputti Capois as well as the Spanish water engineer Juan Suarez had undertaken four hours of drilling and two hours of explanation. There about give or take 70 Haitian recruits. Sebastian first speaking via young Tiputti Capois and then through a local Shatah everyone respected and feared named Jacque Métayer. In three sentence bursts, in a square next to the morgue under a massive water tower Sebastian spelled out the intention: a Haitian run and operated rescue service.
They called the outfit Unit C. It’s objective was to drill under fire so to speak, in six person crews each under the supervision of a certified EMT, they’d cover the city beginning on Monday mapping for still possibly trapped civilians or clusters of critically injured unable to reach the General Hospital of facilities around the airport.
It was quite a disparate group of volunteers, gang members, church kids, medical students, Rastats, Shatahs, and anyone else. Some obviously were just looking for food or work, but some were visionaries. Some saw this as a means to change something about a country where you starved, became a criminal, died of some sickness or escaped on a raft flotilla.
Late in the day, it was getting a little cooler comparatively from the usual tropical stir fry and Sebastian looked tired and was out of smokes. A girl, a young girl; there were only a few female volunteers she asked in Haitian Creole and Jacque translated, “Who will keep training us when you all leave?”
“I’m not gonna leave until this outfit stands all Haitian,” Sebastian promised and Cassidy scowled thinking ‘what the fuck are you promising man?’
Tiputti pulled him aside and asked, “Do you understand what you’ve promised? It’s good you’re blan so they won’t believe you anyway.”
And he did and he didn’t, but it seemed like his destiny or duty to raise this thing or die here he explained. They signed up 64 definite, told everyone to return Sunday at 2pm.
“What if people can’t get onto the grounds,” Jacque translated a question.
“Hold up a water packet and I’ll shuttle you through,” Sebastian said holding up the plastic water pouch the UN was handing out in the thousands, a little ¼ liter bag of fluid most everyone could get their hands on.
Then it was nightfall and Sebastian went to light some Shabbos candles which he always did and got some bread and grape juice form the Magan David Adom unit based out of the Canadian Red Cross compound.
“Are you sure you will stay?” Tiputti Capois asks him, the promise, deed and damage done already.
“I gave my word didn’t I brother.”
“The word of a white man is worth nothing here, if you leave no one will hate you so much for too long.”
“I’m staying, and that’s that.”
“Well then God is with you, Jesus and the Lwa too,” the kid mutters.
“Well I hope so. What are the Lwa?”
“The Old Spirits of Guinea; Africa. The ones that will still be here when all the white men leave.”
The General Hospital empties out. Western medical students and doctors pulling frantically back to the airport, as if they fear vampires, ghouls and zombies. The first wave is pulling out too, but that leaves the hospital pretty abandoned. They’d fought hard all week to prove it was still a 24 hour care affair.
Cassidy Vale and Dominick Asbun for slightly different reasons choose to stay, perhaps a few days, perhaps a week, they both are stretched thin, but both admire Sebastian’s resolve. Captain Raeburn admires it too, but back in New York Chief Rocky Robinson has ordered a total pullout, the second wave due to arrive Saturday night. Mr. Whitley convinces both Raeburn and Robinson that it will be good to let the boys stay on as a transition team. Saturday night and it’s gonna be a leaner, meaner bunch of Bedstuy regulars and secondary leadership, but Whitley has been whispering things to Sebastian about the ‘bigger picture changes’ which they both see.
Cassidy Vale wants to not be a shiftless bar back anymore, wants to stay and make his way, might go back to see his girlfriend, close his life, but one week in he’s sold on the need. He has a rough plan to be in Nairobi in a year for nursing school, he could well stay put if this rescue mission called Unit C pans out. His girlfriend might leave him, but he could sort of live with that.
Dominick Asbun wants to be in Dominica in four months for medical school. He’s been accepted already, he works per diem for Transcare. Here he’s never seen so much work. The need over powers him too, he can’t stay for the duration, but he can give more than a week.
Sebastian, is Sebastian sold on his own visions.
Mr. Whitley is planning something drastic, so he wasn’t going back anyhow.
Eventually, Sebastian gets approval from Robinson on the satellite phone to extend his tour, not that if the old armchair Bedstuy battle horse had refused it would have mattered. Mr. Whitley said it was the political thing to do to let the old tyrant think he still had the power.
Everyone wishes them luck and gets on the bus for the pullout. The night before Miranda and Sebastian were yelling at each other for an hour about ego and also foolish things without merit. James Miranda, the medical student was the closest thing Sebastian and the night tour had to a leader besides nurse Sangosse and Dr. Jean Baptiste. There was inevitably going to be a standoff between them because Miranda was responsible and saw the mission as limited, while Sebastian was reckless and saw the mission as un-ending. It nearly came to blows, but only because the men respected each other’s resolve but not necessarily tactics. Overall, James Miranda was particularly unclear on how an EMT who didn’t speak Creole with white skin might build an emergency medical system out of nothing.
Sitting down in the evacuated triage bay they took the first night, Tiputti, Sebastian, Dominick and Cassidy slump down on benches and chairs assuming that besides form Dr. Jean Baptiste and his girlfriend Monique up in the new quarter masters; they may well be a ‘flying column of four’ for a hospital now housing easily a thousand plus with a lot that could go wrong.
Cassidy notices that Sebastian’s hand is shaking and looks like he could use some sleep. Or a lot of sleep.
“I’m still alive, though I’m barely breathing, as I pray to a god I don’t believe in,” sings Sebastian to himself a song from the radio.
It’s just the four of them and some odd supplies and some technician bags and a lot of hope and faith. Tiputti takes vitals, that’s just about all he’s good for besides translation and enthusiasm. He’d sort of showed on Wednesday in a Haitian Boy Scout uniform and been truly indispensable in organizing unit C. The night before Adon, Cassidy and Asbun had brought Tiputti and his friend, another scout named Tiputti back to the safe house to brief them on the objective. A wallet had gone missing, Miranda blamed Tiputti, blamed Sebastian, and another last big fight had broken out. Now it was Friday and everyone in the first wave was pulling out.
“We may have to ready ourselves for the possibility we’re gonna lose some people tonight,” Asbun states the obvious.
Everyone one them sort of whispers a prayer to the respective gods they part time need to believe in and as they walk up out of the bay those Gods deliver. The place is getting rigged up with flood lights, Staff Sergeant CJ gives Sebastian a pat on the back.
The miracle finally arrives after a week of asking, the 82nd airborne has been ordered to set up shop in the General Hospital a company strong, a few of which are EMTs and paramedics. As military trucks shuttle men and supplies through the front gate a cab pulls up.
A stocky, muscular Italian has covered a lot of ground in the last 12 hours. He carries two large black military bags filled with disaster supplies, a good deal of medications, his name is Rocco, he’s a 30 year Paramedic, retired from the FDNY, he’s gotten his ass from Bayridge to Port Au Prince on a backup mission. Sebastian half embraces him, he’s just taken a cab from the airport, just flown in, dropped in whatever. Another damn miracle, thinks Sebastian to the god he doesn’t believe in. Rocco is surely and disheveled, a brolic bag of tricks.
His arrival and that of the 82nd airborne, certainly seemed to have improved the balance of things. But not by too much. For those of us thinking critically, thinking consciously about how this atrocity has happened, who is to blame and how people are forced to live like this; the duty to act that we took as a vow on our last day of EMT training; you all have a duty to at people should not live as they do.
For all the help that had arrived by day, by night fall they had mostly abandoned the hospital to a skeleton crew of Cuban nurses in the OB tents in the hospital court yard, a had full of Haitian nurses still on call, and there were thousands of patients now Alone in the dark on various levels of dying.
And that meant, at least until dawn there may have been as few as two doctors, four to tens nurses, and now six EMTs and paramedics for what might have been close to 1,000 plus unstable or critical patients. At least with the 82nd airborne here had a little back up. Which amounted to lights, their combat medic which is pretty much an EMT with needles, and the military carry stretchers we would need to run people who were craping out back down to the ER bay.
A little after midnight the screaming began.
“I am to work an overnight shift,” thinks Asbun. Hella different than all night with Transcare, though. There was going to be virtually no one staying overnight – the night before a plane left so no one stayed and this was going to be the second night in a row – it’s hundreds of motherfucking patients, most of them under tents outside, and no one except maybe two sleeping nurses to look after people. So we stayed: I wasn’t planning on it and kinda tired as usual but so were Sebastian, Cassidy, Monique, Dr. Jean-Baptiste, Rocco (FDNY medic for 25 years who misconnected with BSVAC and took a plane to Santo Domingo and then a couple hundred $$$ taxi ride to Port-Au-Prince and had just showed up in time for the night shift. Ooooh boy.), two scientologists (one a dentist who’s “more of a listener” and one nurse EMT who at first seemed not too oriented but turned out to have been coordinating shit in hella disasters (911, a million hurricanes, etc., so he said), and yep, that was our force for then. Halfway through the night everyone started acting kinda…erratic, the situation got erratic, you could say, had an hour long meeting where the scientologist nurse set down his expertise pretty hard and then a bunch of petty and some substantiated attacks, things a mess, I told everyone the problem is we’re all there to be active and do things but establishing in a way our own authority, via justification/validity from some “higher” organization – Scientologist/AMHE//BSVAC/ – and didn’t have an overarching structure or organization to set things straight. People got offended; I think they took it as me saying that their desire to help out wasn’t pure, or something. I didn’t get much attention and then they started arguing again, starting off with a debate about whether or not scientologists can wear their bright yellow shirts around the hospital.
By midnight-thirty, these reinforcements weren’t amounting to much. Dr. Jean Baptiste was half passed out after seven nights on his feet, his girlfriend Monique a little more shrill and hysterical than usual. Rocco and Sebastian were in the south compound making rounds, when as if on cue half a dozen patients began crapping out and it wasn’t like the movies where one could do a little CPR and give some breathes and they’d roll over looking beleaguered, albeit better. No, these people were dying and Cassidy, Dominick and a half-awake Gary Jean-Baptiste were out of half a dozen critical western innovations to remedy this catastrophe. Oxygen tanks were locked up down the hill in a Partner’s for Health supply wagon. There wasn’t a single functioning monitor in the place, not that there were cardiac medications should one even know what was wrong with a patient’s heart.
But, the real problem was infection. People in odd corners, not in camera light not getting care, now waiting ‘til midnight-thirty to die in the night shade.
There weren’t radios, but Tiputti ran down the hill to collect Rocco and Sebastian. They took off running back toward where the dying was happening. That’s when Sebastian notices some LED lights flickering in what had been thought to be vacant ward.
It was a scramble to bring everything under control. Dominick and Sebastian break into the PFH trailer to get an O2 M tank and strap it to an army stretcher running up the hill. Eventually when it seems like everybody is mostly stable a young, Haitian nurse tugs on Dominick’s sleeve and lead him and Sebastian to the corpse of an old woman with a sad little kid tugging on the dead woman’s arm. Sebastian checks her carotid, but she’s cold and dead.
“What’s her name?” Sebastian asks.
The nurse shrugs, ‘cause she doesn’t speak English. Sebastian checks the makeshifitery of a chart, basically a couple sets of vitals taken two days ago and the name ‘Mona’.
Dominick goes to flag down a soldier to get a body bag, but they don’t know who has any. The little boy, her grandson maybe sits at the edge of the cot. Sebastian closes her cold dead eyes, and looks around for Tiputti to inquire about the faux-pas of Haitian burial rituals.
“Everyone’s Catholic, then we go in the ground,” is what Tiputti tells him.
Sebastian and Dominick get a long board and carry Mona’s body to the morgue. It’s locked, which is almost for the better because looking in the glass window it appears that the hospital workers have stacked a few hundred corpses on top of each other, with not a whole lot of precision or order. So, they wrap Mona’s body in one of the last sheets they have and tell the little kid they’re sorry for his loss, which doesn’t mean so much because he doesn’t speak English either.
Seated on the step of radiology Sebastian brings the kid an MRE ration bag and a UN water pouch, hands the nurse a smoke.
“So if this were Brooklyn, right, we’d give them a slip with time of death or burial instructions or something right?” Sebastian asks Dominick.
“I see what yer trying to say brother, but this ‘in Brooklyn’ shit needs to get out your head, we’re in Haiti now. They’re gonna take that dead old woman and throw her on the pile with the others.”
“Well, at least she died with a name.”
“I don’t think that comforts anybody but you.”
And low and behold those blue lights Sebastian had seen were a two person Scientologist medical team consisting of a paramedic-nurse named Luckner who refused to produce any verification of his credentials and a Dentist named Fred. Nobody had told the night crew they were gonna be there, and now Sebastian was bellowing at Luckner asking him why the fuck hadn’t he helped out with all the chaos that had been going down.
Luckner, a man who looks young for his late forties takes in Sebastian yelling about Scientist subordination to the rescue workers, yelling about total break downs in communications and bizarre underhanded general conduct. He takes it in, looks Sebastian in the eyes as they sit at an impromptu staff meeting in the quarter master building with the others at about 2 am. Looks at him and sizes up how fast this rascal can be nabbed and shipped out of country.
We underestimate Scientologists, thinks Dominick, because we think they believe in aliens, which they do, but we often fail to gauge how ruthlessly calculated and base covering they are.
Luckner and the dentist were off in some side building with a dozen frail, dying patients that for whatever reason without a hint of central coordination they had decided to post up and watch over. When all the crapping out in the dark was going down about an hour ago, they’d not left those patients’ side. “It would have been abandonment,” Luckner explains a bit like he’s talking to a child, which is basically how he views Sebastian, a big entitled, emotionally charged child.
They’re all posted up in the quarter master building in the middle of a lull. Rocco is smoking and Cassidy is sterilizing his equipment, and Dr. Baptiste is more than half asleep, and Monique looks frazzled and well meaning, but strung out, also with darty amphetamine eyes. Tiputti says nothing and Dominick is trying to moderate this escalation between Sebastian and Luckner, while the elderly dentist says nothing too. It’s Saturday morning, but the sun won’t rise for maybe 3 ½ more hours. A lot more can go wrong, the 82nd airborne sent up three guys with some EMS training to assist, they mill about outside, a bit bored and confused, but thankful not to be in Iraq as fucked as this place seems to be.
Finally Sebastian stops ranting about, “Who the fuck do you Scientology people think you are?”
And Luckner calmly poses a similar question. Then it turns out he’s very well-credentialed, very tied to the UN, the military, the health minister, he poses the same question to Sebastian and adds an answer; ‘you’re a shell shocked EMT with no idea about how all this goes down.’
It gets hostile, Luckner really tears Sebastian and all his emotions apart. Not maliciously, just attempts to assert just how little experience he and the others have with ‘this sort of situation.’
Everyone likes Sebastian, mostly for his enthusiasm, but Luckner is right, right about how deep they are in this without any supply pipelines, international backers, or ‘bigger picture game plan’. Cassidy Vale takes all that in, Dominick too.
“Look, clap, clap, clap; you all came down here to help on the drop of a dime, but pick a number kids. We’ve been down here for years and the situation is much worse now than any other time. Mr. Hero Sebastian over here can’t run around like a cowboy making highly charged and problematic calls on things he’s not even trained to deal with, like an MCI of this magnitude. If it were up to me, which it could be I’d have you on a plane home by tomorrow afternoon after a cot and two hots, but here’s where I go, you’ve worked hard and you mean well so get some fucking sleep and we’ll talk about this in the morning.”
It was quite a bit harsher than that, but the gist once again was to leave the rescue effort to the professionals. Everyone is sold at least on Sebastian going to sleep. So he does, and the night goes well enough poorly, Rocco runs, literally a manic, frantic gate as cries emerge tent by tent for ‘doctor, doctor’, but Jean Baptiste is the only doctor here. He’s a wreck, his girlfriend too. The skeleton crew holds out until dawn with only two more deaths.
Sebastian’s asleep, but others have ways of getting sentimental about the named dead in the morgues shallow grave. It’s all meaningless, thinks Cassidy, the place is doomed, but it’s a passing thought. Dominich makes mental notes for his journal about testifying what’s happening.
The other afternoon Sebastian had been mumbling to Cassidy and Dominick about his plan, about getting out of the city, into the mountains and training some of these kids how to be EMTs. Foolish talk, thinks Dominich, leave it to the professionals, humanitarian tourists go home.
Around 9am an omnibus shows up to pull the last standing of the first wave night crew off the lines. By noon, Dr. Jean Baptiste, Monique his temperamental lady, and Rocco are on a military EVAC plane out. Rocco had 25 years in the FDNY, a medic true and blue, but he knew a losing battle when he saw one.
The terrible tent to tent run, the hopelessness had drowned him in just one night. This was the end of the inglorious first wave, the hospital shortly would be the focal point of all relief, a media hot spot, a green zone. They’d secured it in a week of cruel toil, but in the larger realm of things, this cluster fuck was the countries only working hospital.
So, Sebastian prods Dominick and Cassidy into ‘one more week, get the second wave orientated then pull out’, but he’s got this look of resolve, the others suspect he plans to stay.
The new safe house, in the Santo district is mostly empty. Tiputti, Sebastian, Dominich and Cass are all passed out in small pile on the second floor balcony of one of the two villas in the compound, stucco and orange paint like Sante Fe. Gardel is still on duty, all the Scientists are relocated to another base camp at the airport, the second wave is due in at sundown.
That was the hardest night so far – apart from the seemingly endless attention the endless patients need, running to save a man’s life, and carrying a woman to the morgue after being called by one of the sleeping nurses to declare her dead; leaving her on the floor right by the entrance and still having to deal with drama between the people you’re working with. Before Sebastian and I started carrying her, the sleeping nurse asked if we wanted a cigarette. Things are a different color in the night, and the Army presence is odd somehow too; Army rolls deep now at the hospital, hummers and trucks with big ass wheels came through the other day like 200 deep, 82nd Airborne. The American Army that under the helmets and bullets is more than anything Hispanic or Southern boys, boys thrown into Haiti “for…the foreseeable future”; they were good guys even though some of them got bored and a bored soldier can be an annoying soldier. Not to undermine the strange and quiet satisfaction that is to speak in their accent and welcome at least the feeling of security, welcome familiarity. There’s more to tell about that night, but for now look at this: Rocco, that medic with solid skills and a very thriving heart, who made a whole experience of just getting to Haiti, took the next morning’s plane back home.
“I want you to look deep in your heart and ask yourself if you’re really up for this,” Dominich asks Adon.
“Just think about what you’re giving up,” Cassidy interjects.
They should be sleeping after last night, but they’re back at the compound nursing Prestige beers post a three hour snooze, in the hot-hot 11am heat. Besides Mr. Whitley and Raeburn, all the others are gone.
Adon has this plan. It is a romantic and terrible plan bound to fail. Not just because Adon doesn’t speak Haitian Creole and isn’t qualified to carry it out, it’s bound to fail because forces will make it fail. Forces Adon certainly cannot control.
“I feel like if we don’t get him on a plane home this could end badly,” Dominich says to Cassidy Vale.
“I like the plan, I like the guy, I like everything except the obvious outcome.”
“He’s not gonna just stay here.”
“He might just stay here,” Cass responds, “hell, I might just stay here too.”
And in the afternoon the Second Wave arrives eager with swagger.
It is now 24 January.
The next day most people from AMHE and everyone from BSVAC (except for me, Cassidy, and Sebastian, and Chief Raeburn and Mr. Whitley who coordinated things) left Haiti. Sebastian was really excited about changing things and then we got to too much talking and it happened that, surrounded by the ideas everywhere and in the wake of last night and still tired, all the commotion started feeling too separate from the reality of things, the cloud kept floating higher and higher; suddenly, for the first time, I got a loud twang of I want to go home, and I felt it. But at night the new crew rolled in fresh from New York – the three of us had got back to planning the things to get done with the hospital and we were then the veterans, and the fact that it was us getting things together got me away from the other shit in my head, and slowly I stopped feeling like I needed someone to touch me back to reality; that purpose, again, sets your mind and time and energy in motion. Like I said the new BSVAC people showed up – the “next wave deployed” – and the three of us from before were the ones with information and plans, no matter the BSVAC chain of command and saluting and all that shit. A group of them were from Jersey (I believe) Search and Rescue, and they brought a rescue dog, and these kids’ chests out and ready, and it’s kinda nice cause in general we didn’t see egos flaring the way we’d been warned they might, and they were serious, very serious about getting shit done.
The next day after that, today, we organized people and it looks like there will be MORE people on the night shift, holy shit, the new group has like 16 people doing overnight too so when I go back tonight it’ll be a real different story, hurrah. Been trying to talk anpil kreyol with Stephanne and her kid, they hang out at the house and 5 year old Adriano is a bad lil fucker but a lot of fun. Sometimes these days it’s hard to describe how good it is to divert your energy towards running around with a ‘lil kid and charading Creole to a girl that laughs a whole lot. Mesi anpil, mwen vole pale kreyol. I mean, mwen vle pale kreyol. She’s been trying to get on flights to the US – she showed me pics of her blan husband and his family and all the men rock mustaches. She has passports for her and the baby, but we guess it’s still not easy to get out. Thousands in tents waiting on the airstrip for evacuation.
A distinctive characteristic of the Second Wave was that almost none of them were Haitian, mostly Bed Stuy American blacks. Also, while most of the First Wave, other than Raeburn and Cassidy were not previously members of the BSVAC, most of these folks were. They came in looking hard, ready to get to work, they had a guy with a cadaver dog, they had a dozen Jersey fire men. They were really into this totally made-up chain of command they’d created on the plane, lots of chiefs and few Indians. Chief Womble, a big fat guy with a glyph carved in his hair, Chief Luna Charles, the only female the Chief of Operations. Chief Pointer, the founder of Bedstuy Vollies son, also a wild eyed Jewish Paramedic with bad teeth from FDNY who had ‘done these sorts of things before with FEMA’, a young ‘captain’ named Danny Marks. Hey had all the right sounding, brassy titles like ‘Chief Operations Officer’ or “Chief of Logistics”, but they weren’t fooling anyone, they looked scared.
Ego was likely to clash, especially between Sebastian and this cat Chief Pointer, who came in with an insolent look in his eyes to match the self-righteous zeal in Adons’. A look that said ‘these crackers weren’t giving any good advice from no one week of deployment.’
Like the NGOs they were gonna transplant a structure that probably didn’t apply here. They assumed their black skin mattered more than it did.
There were much fewer of them in the second wave, around 40 medical people almost no Blan or Haitians.
It was however agreed, they should all deploy the next the day, and some 16 people would double up and work the now infamous night tour.
The crowd swelled, it wasn’t just enthusiastic as it was unruly and unmanageable. The 70 ish-odd-assorted officially signed up to train had all told a few more friends and now there were a few hundred inside, and a few hundred outside the hospital gates who all sought to join ehemteh.
Tiputti Capois and Fitz LaForest (the towering wall of former military muscle that arrived between waves and may have been working for the CIA, the Scientists, or the Haitian police) try and line people up, but Haitians really don’t do that well. Jacque Métayer, the gangster barks commands and makes rows. Sebastian passes out waters and comically urges people to get into formation. There are a lot of flies in the air, they are all out behind the quarter master strong building under the vast water tower. Spanish fireman Jorge chuckles off to the side, not yet sold this will work. The gathering of so many young Haitians, well it sort of makes the white doctors from America nervous. News has spread throughout the hospital grounds that the second day of the enlistment is proceeding chaotically. Quite a few professionals are kind of whispering to themselves that was gonna kick off a riot. The 82nd airborne is a little nervous, although Sebastian keeps Staff Sergeant CJ in the loop over the course of the day running messages on progressions.
It’s a production and a trying ordeal. It’s not realistic to presume they can train 300 or more, they need a screening exam or a means to differentiate who is serious and who just wants to land a job. Simeon, another identifiable leader of the Rasta kids steps up, Tiputti Capois brought his friend Obenson to help translate, a cluster of leaders emerges, but it’s hardly as if they can effectively turn people away at this stage.
After about two hours of yelling and maneuvering, some training begins. Fitz the soldier; he’s a child of a wealthy Diaspora family with strong opinions on everything that have to be sort of moderated by his equally diesel companion Darious. He’s grilled Sebastian a few times in the three days he’s known the guy. Grilled him about why the hell he’s promised to remain in Haiti.
Touch and go, that’s how the training goes. Jacque and Tiputti are making a list as it goes on who should really be included. Simeon has already suggested that once this final list is set up the training gets moved off the hospital grounds. The hospital director isn’t exactly thrilled this is happening anyway. Who’s gonna pay them, that’s the question all the professionals keep asking. Who’s gonna certify them? Most of them probably can’t even read, the professionals suggest. This is getting out of hand, is what most of the blan volunteers are feeling.
The Spanish fire fighters lend stretchers and keep everyone well hydrated.
Sebastian, in three or four word spurts keeps instilling this nationalist pride rhetoric which astounds and impresses Fitz LaForest, as and Darius (Fitz’s equally massive bearded side kick also arrived between waves from thin air) into helping. The two of them came in right before the Second Wave. Nobody really found that odd because it was really hard to keep track of all the comings and goings among strangers. Day shift, night shift; three dubious of each other partner organizations without any clear sense of who worked with which-what faction.
Word comes that the soldiers are getting uneasy, a BSVAC ‘captain’ one Danny Marks, a humble well educated dude runs to get Sebastian because that’s who they all keep asking for a the gate. Twitchy white southern soldiers just see a vast and unruly colored mob trying to get in; no good at all. Of such circumstance a Mogadishu made.
Jacque and Sebastian race with Captain Marks down the hill. Sebastian is thinking about a comment Gardel the head of compound security. A comment about how bad it would be for the whites if a twitchy soldier in the heat fired just one shot.
Sebastian gets up on a table at the guard booth with Chief Womble who’s already out there. Womble in his American life is a transport EMT at the Midwood Ambulance co, here he’s chief of something, about forty some odd, hard Second Wave rescue workers.
Lots and lots of yelling and pushing and haggling and the soldiers look more and more nervous about the mob. It is a mob, not a threatening one if one knows Haitians, but the white soldiers just see a shit ton of screaming Negros, pushin’, clawing.
The soldiers from the 82nd airborne raise their weapons, the crowd ignores them surging, surging to swallow up Sebastian Adon and put their names on his list.
Finally, Jacque speaking for Sebastian bellows in Creole, “We will make a training list! It does not guarantee a job, but we will call everyone on it to apply!”
Tiputti Capois has made his way down. Everyone’s now shoving and clamming to hand Womble and Sebastian, John and Tiputti slips of paper by the hundred with names and numbers. For some peculiar reason they’re all showing the national ID card as they do it, which must be some island fascist thing drilled in um thinks Sebastian.
“We must move this crowd down the street before the soldiers open fire,” says Tiputti, knowing what will happen if white soldiers fire on a black crowd in Haiti, in this precise environment. They’ll kill every single white on the streets.
“We need to move away from the hospital,” bellows Jacque in Haitian Creole, “these Blan soldiers are getting nervous!”
So they do. This PBS camera crew watches this scene and films away, of Sebastian and Jacque and Tiputti moving a crowd of hundreds down the street as they swarm to get on the list. Hundreds of little slips of paper filling the cargo pockets of Sebastian’s BDU pants. At a point it seems the crowd has swallowed him. But then he emerges again moving further and further up the street. There is a glee of hope in the crowd, a job and training to be part of the rescue. Most might only vaguely understand what ehemteh is, but the word travels quickly. These were the people who have been over night in the hospital for a week. The EMT acronym here is something of fearless rescue, the hope is contagious anyhow.
It takes nine city blocks and the help of Simeon and Jacque and Tiputti to finally end the enlistment. The four of them return to the hospital. Sebastian looks excited and a bit drained, he’s never seen people react like that about a thing. In New York an EMT is glorified cab driver with an oxygen tank that doesn’t have to sit in traffic. Here he’s a folk hero.
In the now evacuated triage building, which no one will go in because of the aftershocks that keep happening, the site of the original night’s deployment; Sebastian joins Cassidy who is seated on crate.
“That was something.”
“The soldiers thought they were gonna kill you.”
‘That’s how soldiers think.”
“So now what?” asks Tiputti Capois.
Sebastian takes out the hundreds bits of paper, starts putting them into large plastic bags.
Jacque says, “We must move quickly now. No government in Haiti likes a list like this.”
“It’s an EMS training list,” says a shocked Cassidy Vale.
“It’s to them something they don’t want, they want you foreigners to be our EMS, they don’t wish to see the Haitian people have an institution like this.”
“Who is they? There is no government,” says Cassidy.
“The people in Petionville, the people on the hill,” mutters Jacque and spits.
“The rich people who make a lot of money taking money off the top of the relief effort,” says Simian.
“So what? Sebastian is in some kind of danger now?” Cassidy can’t fathom why.
“Well all of us are, as long as that list is in our hands,” explains Tiputti.
“So we have to get out of the city, begin training as planned,” Jacques says calmly, “we will type up the list and go up into the mountains to train a few leaders who can then train those that are serious.”
“This isn’t a political group or a guerrilla band, there has to be some way to get the hospital director or the health minister to sign off on this if handled appropriately. I mean, ‘go up in the mountains?’ What the hell are you gonna train with; the power of suggestion?” Cassidy couldn’t see this ending well ‘in the mountains’.
“Let me be simple about this,” says Jacque who’s English is best of all of them, “This country is a quarantined drug airstrip with a police force, a Republic of NGOs in service of the CIA. The people on that huge mountain hill live very well thanks to illegal commerce and NGO graft. They will react violently to this training program. We must be quick or die fruitlessly.”
“He is right about that,” says Tiputti Capois.
They translate that all back to the others.
“Tonight we will pick eight to twelve of the leaders who are serious and movers of men, we’ll get them ready to leave tomorrow, you have to be careful, they will try and arrest you and kick you out of the country,” Simeon explains, “this is the rumor in the hospital.”
“But what about all the dead and injured in the Capital? If we just pull out we abandon the relief effort,” Cassidy neigh says on.
“The NGOs are all hear to pick up these pieces, what we will build in the mountains is about the future of Haiti,” Simeon says, “let the dead bury the dead, and the blan take pictures together in the rubble and filth.”
Captain Danny Marks runs up to where they are sitting, “Pointer wants to talk with you, says you started a goddamn riot!”
“It was an enlistment, not a riot,” Cassidy explains now for the fortieth time to someone who just wasn’t there and is making a big deal of it needlessly, acting as if there was explicit danger.
“We’ve signed up a few hundred people to train as Haitian EMTs,” Sebastian explains.
“Who’s gonna fucking train them?” Marks asks, who ‘Captain Marks’ is nominally within an organization devoted to training American blacks as EMTs. An organization that tried to capitalize off the Haitian earthquake by going on the news and promising things they didn’t have. Like Haitian doctors and nurses (which AMHE provided) or logistics and plane (which the scientologist provided) and now here they were three weeks into the carnage having not even contributed heavily to the first Wave on the ground.
“Apparently we are,” says Cassidy, for the first time admitting to himself begrudgingly he won’t be on a plane back to the states in a few days as planned.
“You two crackups?” says Danny Marks.
“He’s Irish, I a Hebrew, I think we can get the job done,” Sebastian says. The new bosses Pointer and others tried to dress them down, but Raeburn who was still technically the commanding officer of the brigade and Mr. Whitley still its main local fixer defused it. Squashed
the beef real quick.
“Well whose command are they under?” demanded Rocky Robinson, the official despot and Chief of BSVAC, he demanded the three (Adon, Asbun and Vale) return home immediately. But Mr. Whitely grinned, he took the satellite phone from Raeburn; ‘they’ve been commandeered sir, they are under the command of the Haitian people now.”
The UN soldiers and Haitian police arrested Tiputti Capois at the hospital and brought him to the Tabarre police station for interrogation. They were unable to locate most of the other ring leaders, as only Tiputti came from a home in the Lower Delmas district still standing. The police, were in many ways a uniformed force in attire alone some prone to joy riding, others prone to racketeering, some albeit brutal patrolling, nothing compared to the Brazilians. They had the boy for only an hour when two Americans, Sebastian Adon and Mr. Whitley managed to trade his freedom for three boxes of Prestige beer and $1,000.00 American. Clearly all a big misunderstanding.
The Haitian police said they couldn’t care less, they’d been told by the military to arrest him and also three Americans in blue uniforms.
Before anyone from MINUSTAH was able to order an interrogation Capois had been spirited away to the Santo District safe house.
“Who has the list,” was the first question that interrogator might have asked had it come to that.
Several people had it now, but it was useless except really as an idea. The idea was that the Haitian people would be organized into a body to rebuild and reclaim their own country beginning with prehospital care of the sick and injured.
Dr. Hinge, now two days departed was quite interested in the idea behind the list. No one had any real expectation that Sebastian, a blan would galvanize a people’s army, a riot maybe but not an organization. Both Mr. Whitley and Dr. Hinge, who were both fond of the young man’s enthusiasm knew enough about to Haiti to know that organization, even volunteer medical organization was a miraculous feat. That the young EMT might undertake such a project was a testimony to his idealism, madness or both.
“Who has the list,” Whitley asks Tiputti in the air-conditioned barber shop slash safe house the three now sit.
“Multiple people,” Tiputti responds in Creole.
“You are all targets now thanks to those fucking scientists,” explains Whitley, “and you,” he says pointing to Sebastian, “You do not have many friends left on this Island at all.”
“I am his friend,” Tiputti responds.
“That is why we have rescued you. You must get the other ring leaders and get out of the city. Many people are plotting against you all. I have collected Dominich and Cassidy, Corporal Fitz has them safe. He wishes to move you all out of the city and let you attempt to organize them into a medical detachment, but are you aware that if you are not 100 percent on this, now is your last opportunity to leave. Without perhaps disappearing completely or leaving in pieces in a bag.”
“I know what you are planning Whitley, and I suppose I am behind it. It is not my ambition to play politics in your country. I simply thought this volunteer force was a needed good.”
“It’s dangerous to be so naïve here. The Scientists want you deported, for your safety they assure me. The Bedstuy contingent is nervous and twitchy too, that you will jeopardize their newfound NGO status, laugh me out loud.”
“You’re only useful if you succeed.”
“Well of course I’m only useful if I succeed.”
Tiputti is quiet as the older men talk. He listens though intently.
“If you can raise a medical column it would have to fall under the leadership of the Haitian people, certainly not the non to barely-existent Haitian government or the republic of NGOs as it were, or be some free-lance shit.”
“Well of course.”
“Of course of course, but there will be blood and you are a medical man are you not?”
“I am not so alien to the things you plot, although I am completely alien to the conditions in which you plot them.”
“Then get gone out of the city before the real bloodshed begins. Any day now a UN slider or US solider will get too hot and fire on a crowd and the Lavalas movement will use that exact moment to drive every hostile foreigner out of our country. Not every white, every hostile foreigner, but that can get very confused in unleashed popular anger. Get the risk frère? I will make you my junior officer. You and Tiputti and the others must be ready in case heavy fighting begins, which once we get though the trauma of this event and bury the dead, it will happen suddenly as if we’d been organized for 200 years or longer.”
“That will take us at least a month I reckon, to train 40 people proficiently.”
“You are a rose colored optimist. I will give you three months, Fitz will bring you to the mountains where you will help others build a medical compound for the wider rebellion.”
“What of the relief effort?”
“What of it, the dead will bury the dead. The country must rebuild itself. Any time a foreign power comes here with relief they stay three decades taking our blood, labor and treasure.”
“So I work directly for you now?”
“You work for the Haitian people. As for supplies and logistics, you work directly for me with Fitz and Capois as your go between and translators. Cassidy, Dominich and you will train, the others will translate and insure discipline. Our odds here are always very bad, your unit joining us will not be easy you get that right. You’ll be a Jew, an Irish and Palestinian in almost all black uprising. Are you 100 ready to ride or die?”
“I pledged to those men and women we’d train them save. I’m 100.”
“If you ain’t running with it run from it. President Aristede will be smuggled back into the country in the next six months.
“What kind of training to you have besides EMT, this emergency group is going to have to be Johnny on the spot once the uprising begins. We’re not using lethal weapons and we’re up against a lot of foreign and domestic fire power.”
“Dominich is pre-med maybe has some chemistry he also speaks Spanish, he’s half Columbian. Vale can jerry rig all kinds of things, me well, I have two years of agitation propaganda training the Israelis gave me.”
“What the hell is agitation propaganda training?”
“I can train people how to turn grievances, atrocities and injustices into political opportunities.”
“Welcome to the underground brothers. It’s time to take our country back.”
Sebastian who was treated for last two years as a glorified cab driver with an oxygen tank back in the Bronx and Brooklyn appears to be 99. He looks around this place and sees what you might call destiny calling. And the only thing he things about shaking the hand of the rebel alliance of alien land is a young woman with black curly hair and baby faced smile named Zoe Perechenova, his well hidden love. Wrong word? Yes absolutely.
There was this sickly looking fat guy that came in with the Second Wave. He was staggering, and someone suggested he had some kind of communicable disease, others suggested he was completely unfit for duty, as if the standard was anything other than a willingness to be there.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get him on the next plane,” Dominich Asbun promises the Second Wave leadership.
Writes Asbun in his journal: Back to that second overnight I did, with the new BSVAC people there and actual higher medical staffing there all night. Holy shit. The “second in command” at the hospital had mentioned how this was only the second night to have an all-night crew. No, I said, we’ve been running it – barely – for a week. But, in the end there’re much higher powers at play and I think our overnight traumas will be left entirely to us to remember. And so it goes; and again we saw first something that needed to be changed but they waited to think of it themselves before changing anything. But fuck it at least there was a change, and anyway things change from one day to the next anyway in that world so it’s not like we had to wait much. The hospital I left was a different place from the one I came into, so think of that map I drew way back on Jan 21 as only a part of the picture. By now (and for how long?) most patients are in tents outside the buildings – maybe 25 tents in total? Most of them big tents, housing maybe 40 or so patients – apart from the group of people still swamping all open space in the park area in the middle. That last night I was there, there were even two tents set up for the triage area we’d established outdoors 2 nights earlier, with were of pretty crucial importance ‘cause of the heat at around one pm and the implications of working or be treated without shade. The triage was open all night though, which means patients coming in all night, though number-wise it was nothing compared to patient arrival during the day.
I don’t want to turn the night into a narrative but I’ll say that despite the comparatively huge staff (half of which worked the whole day prior) we were still running around a lot and getting in trauma patients and people dying: a 30-something year old, and a 2 year old, and I think two babies born but not survived. I saw a kid born 2 months premature – didn’t even have O2 for the ‘lil one but the nurse said he’d hang on. Strong from before they’re fully developed babies, these Haitians, ‘til they watch American EMTs slip their 30-something year old boyfriend into a body bag, ‘til when they’re in their 50’s and have spent 10 days under a broken building and still, somehow, still pushing blood through the arteries. (I’ll mention here that when I talked to Mami and Papi on the phone one night and told them about an 84-year-old woman that came in after more than a week under a building, they said they’d heard about it in the news. Apparently she did make quite some headlines; I looked her up getting back, her name is Marie Carida Romain. Not only is it interesting to see a story like that when you were one of the people working on her, but at one point we all decided actually we should let her die. There were barely any signs of life, she was stiffening up even, and given not only how starving we still were for medical supplies but also how many people with a better chance of survival desperately needed those supplies we figured it’d be best to give her a heavy dose of morphine and let her pass in peace. I stepped away from the table and then a news crew rolled in and filmed her, and then I got back to the table and then the doctor said we were going to do what we could to keep her alive as long as possible. I don’t mean to imply something cynical here, and I’m very glad the doctor gave us that order, but it’s funny to see a different side of things. Anyway.)
I took the 30 year old to the morgue (actually inside this time) and what me and the other kid pushing the stretcher saw was like a horror movie; not that bodies were piled up everywhere – there were only a few that we saw – but in the physical feel and dirtiness and stains of the place. Maybe it’s the TV we grow up with or maybe all the preparatory thinking I did to brace up for a night like this or maybe instinct removing you from the emotion but the death I saw didn’t feel like it hit me, or not sharply. For one thing I’ll say right now that I didn’t work specifically on keeping alive any of dead I saw; in other words by the time I got to them they had passed, and I think it’s a whole other story when all of you goes into saving someone and you don’t. The person I put the most work (emotionally) into saving in this way was a lady who came into the hospital in the back of a truck, dusty and completely limp from the “coma” the people bringing her described. This was the morning after that first long overnight shift. They ran to me, “Doctor! Doctor!” and like I said she was already completely out, and I said I’m not a doctor but I couldn’t find anyone to help me so I asked one of the people with her to help me put her on and carry a stretcher, the ones you lift. On the way to a tent I found Rocco and she started vomiting something clear Rocco immediately turned her on her side, we put her on the ground between tents because we couldn’t find a bed at first. Rocco worked hard on putting in a line, I couldn’t even find a radial pulse and this man looking for a vein to prick and his sweat coming down heavy like tears; I’ll say again how long of a night it had been and Rocco after putting so much of himself into the work had little energy and sympathy left, he’d burned it all in the dark a few hours earlier. But he got the line somehow – I’ve never seen someone as good as him with a needle – and the family said she hadn’t eaten in like 5 days so we put dextrose through her veins and she was still out, completely, throwing up still sometimes but skin cold and I kept thinking goddamn this girl is more dead than alive; the small oxygen tank I found was the only air around and it ended soon too. But, after like twenty minutes or maybe even less something about her changed and her eyes started moving – “Bonjour!” I said, and they moved over to me and then she actually said, “Bonjour” back, and motherfucker I couldn’t believe it, I would’ve married her if I’d have thought of it. Turns out her mom was diabetic so probably her too and probably she was just hella hypoglycemic after 5 days of no eating and I ain’t no doctor so coming that close to what felt like death on someone I’d been trying to keep life for showed me how there’s a huge difference between one exposure to death and another. So when I’m carrying the body bag and feel strangely numb I need to remember that, no matter what separation from the situation I have, before a body it was a person with life. It’s a thin line to walk between keeping a real sense of humanity even in someone’s passing and risking it hitting you heavy, on the one hand, and on the other keeping yourself safe away from emotions…but also risking losing touch with the wonder of life, and the wonder of death, and the very real respect to be kept for both.
We got Phil, a hero of 911 morphine up at a clinic near the airstrip. I took a picture with Sebastian and Cassidy and evacuated on a military plain before dark.
It was Monday now. This sick guy’s name is Phil, apparently he got sick long before Haiti driving a volunteer ambulance toward the twin towers as they fell, he looks like shit. BSVAC sent him down for symbolic value. But he looks like he’s crapping out.
Was hoping to get on a plane Tuesday night but Phil and his one kidney got dehydrated and they needed someone to go with him to the airport and on the plane. Cassidy and Sebastian came with me, as Sebastian said, “We’re a unit and we have to stick together,” and we did until I left. After the overnight shift of Jan 25 and chilling at home we went to the scientologists’ camp which is in the big area of foreign camps by the airport; more military and tent living and lock and load whether you’re securing gate security or lifting Phil’s stretcher at the University of Miami field hospital there or carrying a box of water bottles, same all-from-everywhere international feeling, and fuck it people helping. We finally got on one of the government planes Phil and I – a coast guard cargo-type plane with canvas seats for about 30 people and propellers as big as God’s teeth. I hadn’t slept the night before (more on that later, still) and was hella tired and transporting someone, transporting Phil, not easy to deal with when you’re hella tired, but he was sick with something, maybe even altered mental status. Flew to Homestead, FL, got the immigrant/refugee type welcome treatment: they gave us coffee or hot chocolate or both and a bunch of snacks to choose from, and cots and blankets and went through each of our bags and then there was a shuttle to Miami airport, and I took it and then a Delta flight to JFK. I’m still hella tired, and still absorbing the reality of this reality.
Then there were two. It wasn’t that Dominich wasn’t partly sold on this irregular medical guerrilla column notion. But realistically, there was no way they could pull it off without a miracle. And bringing back Phil was a good reason to get out of this heat, get back to New York to think clearly about what had happened so fast.
“You need to sleep sweetness,” Cassidy says to Adon.
Sleep and to get the hell out of dodge.
They’re walking down the boulevard away from the airport toward the UN Logistics base. They heard there are Cuban cigars there and normal food. Adon’s supposed to pretend to be the strong and silent type, but he keeps telling yarns. Talking about subversive stuff he used to organize in New York and Israel, about his dead friend Jeremy, about some broad named Zoe who he swears he’s in love with, but will probably never see again.
Cassidy takes it in, tries to change the subject with lighter talk about if this was Star Wars, what character would Adon be. They’ve been up it seems like the better part of a week. The whole rescue operation feeling overwhelming and extensive. Cassidy looks at Adon and wonders if the man is really up to some true blue, unheard of hero shit.
Cassidy is increasingly worried that Adon is soaring far beyond all reasonable goals, worried he’s lost himself in some romantic voodoo dream of martyrdom, or worse can’t see the probability of futility, of death.
Sebastian and he had been on the airfield. The BSVAC and Scientologists had kicked them off the Tabarre base.
“All this death and dying in a place that had so little nothing to begin with…” Adon mutters.
“Yer gonna end up like Kurtz you know, especially if you listen to Whitley and take off into those mountains. If you don’t disappear, you’ll go real voodoo on us.”
“Let me be as clear as I can on this Cass. It isn’t up to the two of us to fix this. Nothing can fix this but the Haitian people themselves.”
“Yer not Jesus baby. You can’t assume this kind of burden.”
“Why does everyone always say that stupid shit? Like twice a year some asshole has to remind me I’m not Jesus. What the fuck does that even mean?!”
“Woah, baby I’m just sayin.”
“It’s like when I said I was going to Haiti, everyone was like ‘yer gonna get killed.’ I didn’t come here to do anything more than be an EMT, but let’s be real, they need a lot more than EMTs, they need things that they control to save themselves. SO if we train them, if we do that one little thing before we go off and act like some fucking tourists, then I can look back at my stupid, selfish life and say, I gave all I could in the City of Port Au Prince.”
“Daddy O. It’s not your responsibility.”
“No one’s gonna take responsibility.”
“Why you? Why Sebastian and by default your newfound partner Cassidy? Why is it up to us in any capacity to make any other difference than what we’ve made already. No one is asking you to assume this burden. Not Tiputti, not even Whitley, not the people of Haiti. You’re putting something on your shoulders you inherently cannot bear.”
“I’ll bear it if I have to alone, you leave if you must.”
“Well I’m not leaving you here.”
“Well then you’d better help me then.”
“We’re going back to the states.”
“In cuffs or in a bag, but let me just say this. This country has been wronged. Its entire history comprises more suffering than the mind can bear. And I think back to when Emile Cange and I used to talk about God and I say that here is where I’ll make my little moral stand. I didn’t come here to play hero, I came here because there was nowhere else to go. I am not playing at anything outside my means, I possess the will to teach and Tiputti possesses the will to translate. We cannot fix everything, fixing everything is not my objective, but we can teach them how to save a life and that would be a damn good place to start.”
“You speak well Adon, and I worry that’s what will kill you. Scary that so many are listening to you while so few even understand your language.”
“We speak though others. It’s straight forward ideas.”
“Why are you doing this bro? I can’t get on that plane until you get on that plane. I ain’t leaving you to die in Haiti.”
“If you die in Haiti you just come back as a zombie.”
“Well I guess we can’t die here then. I guess we have to play to win.”
Tuesday afternoon, the boys piled into a van with some bright eyed Scientologists chicks to go participate in a food drop operation in some place called Kenscoff. Adon asks too many questions to the Haitian translators accompanying them. But these questions make it clear that Kenscoff is hardly the neediest place in the country.
Quite a lot of resources have been assembled to more 14 tons of olive oil, rice and assorted provisions way up above Port Au Prince into an area that looks a lot like the South of France. The rubble, the screaming, the piled bodies, the flies the smell of death blocked out by vicks vapor rub all becomes lush rolling green mountains and pleasure villas.
So this is where all the very, very rich people live, thinks Cassidy.
The little van is filled with Scientologist girls. The whole thing seems like a partially scripted episode on a frighteningly surreal reality TV show, thinks Adon. They’re making a donor movie, with the city still a ruin.
It only took about an hour and half of driving to leave the hell of the earthquake behind. Now it was tropical paradise, it was clear some live rather fucking well in Haiti.
The Van makes a pit stop, some of the girls wander off to use the bathroom, and obviously the Sci-Tys have a lot of sympathizers they pay for with green money. Adon lights one up, Cassidy looks out in the rolling green valley, looks out at what the Island must all have looked like once, once like a really long time before the blan got here.
Adon is completely insane. There’s never gonna be an EMS system in Haiti, all you can do is join hands with them and jump, Adon keeps arguing that anyway. It’s like in all this mess he’s found his moment. It can’t end well. Adon, like these L.A. Sci-Tys doesn’t seem to see the clear and present danger of asking for change on the Island of Haiti.
“It’s like a movie,” muses Adon.
‘What kind of movie?” Cassidy responds.
“Somewhere between a noire and a western. They certainly add to the surrealist element those crazy scientists. But I keep having this feeling like there’s something high above us watching. Rooting for us even.”
The feeding was a shit show. The Haitian paramilitaries, probably off duty cops or worse just gangsters for hire from the once a military were basically funneling thousands of people into a court yard two by two through a thin opening in a gate. These people, like the first round of patients in the General Hospital were unfeasibly well dressed, they were the slaves and servants of the Kenscoff rich. While the scientists shot B-Roll, paramilitaries hurried the pickup along, piles and piles of USAID food getting into the hands of the completely least needy.
Soon the crowds overwhelm the security posts, the whole thing is going down in a school yard, there’s always some clever strategy on how to not make a food drop turn into a zoot suit riot, but that strategy never works.
Soon police-enforcers whoever are striking people with batons, a few shots are fired in the air, the mob storms the compound and Adon gets swept down a narrow alley separated from the extraction truck.
“Remember, no one wants to harm you, they just want the food,” a Scientologist had informed them. It was true.
But there were all these little kids and they looked like they’d get trampled and Adon kept trying to get people to get the food and get out. Now there were mobs coming into the compound from two entrance points, and Cassidy is up on a roof yelling that it’s time to leave.
In the back of his head Adon hears Gardel the security guy, (Mr. Whitley too) telling him to separate fact from emotion. Telling him he’ll only succeed if he can kill his petty Western sentimentality and embrace the darkness out here.
And these hungry little child slaves out here trying to nab a bag of rice, they do look pretty hungry, but Cassidy is yelling to pull out so Adon climbs up a basketball hoop and jumps onto a corrugated roof where they dash mast a swarming crowd toward the trucks.
The Scientists are appalled Adon was separated, that wasn’t part of the script.
The mob nearly overt turns the extraction trucks. Finally they break free, they get clear, they speed down the highway road through this place of relative safety and wealth cut off by a sea of rubble and death called the Capital.
It’s Wednesday and Cassidy is looking around the general hospital for an NGO for the boys to fall under. Adon has set up shop in the now empty lower triage bay, all the patients are afraid of being in doors even though structural engineers have evaluated the structure at least five times now. The city is a world of dirty tents and rubble.
Adon is speaking with five or six of the Unit C training group leaders led by Tiputti Capois, Obenson Etienne, and Jacque Metayer. They’re hatching a plan.
“You need to get to the Olofsen Hotel, the people there will help us, or know where we should turn,” states Tiputti Capois.
“The Olofsen hotel is known as a place for these kinds of plots,” says the Shatah Jacque.
“That’s where Phoebe is living,” Cassidy reminds Adon.
“They might know where we can base this training operation,” says Tiputti.
“That guy Morse knows every strange move in this city,” says Jacques.
“I’ll get over there tonight then,” says Adon.
It’s dusk, now. Adon and Cassidy are on the road back to the airport.
“You’re talking so crazy even the Scientologists are raising their eyebrows,” Says Cassidy, “you’re get us abducted and probed.”
“I get that I’m abrasive, but this thing needs doing.”
“Why are you the one who has to do it, that’s what I’m saying?”
“I promised them. I made an oath. I swore to them I’d help them.”
“You have to go home. You’re not being rational baby.”
“I’m gonna cross the city tonight, I’m gonna go see Phoebe at the Olofsen and find out what the next step should be. People at that Hotel are apparently affiliated with whatever is left of the resistance here.”
Lavalas, the cleansing flood, that’s what Mr. Whitley had said.
“It can wait for morning, there’s no reason to be out on the streets.”
Adon had just threatened a couple Scientologist bigwigs. He’d called um colonizers, said they should be shot. Advocated driving the Brazilians and t the NGOs out of Haiti. It was mad house speech of crazy violent, impassioned talk. It wasn’t out of the blue, after nearly two weeks in the thick of things obviously he needed a long nap, and a flight home. But Adon wasn’t hearing that.
“She ain’t an oracle baby, she’s just as confused as you.”
“I wish you’d all stop talking to me like I’m stupid and crazy.”
“Yer not stupid brother, but you are a little crazy. You told the Scientists you’d have them all shot. Have them burned out of Haiti. You were running around in a field last night chasing the moon, making everyone even me nervous. What kind of crazy talk is that?”
He’s developed some stress induced narrative that the Scientologists, the Army, the NGOs, well everyone was here to colonize the Haitians once and for all. He’d wigged out.
“Adon yer acting paranoid. You’re obviously a bit overwhelmed by this whole thing, hey its heavy shit. But don’t go running around in the dark. Think of your Zoe.”
They’d spent the better part of Tuesday afternoon on that airfield engaging in Q&A. He certainly had a plan, as outlandish as that plan was. EMS in Haiti, Haitians saving Haitians, guerrilla EMS columns organized in the countryside to redeem the nation. Cassidy had never met someone so caught in a moment on fire. And it was heady, wonderful talk, but it was something that one couldn’t wing.
“Think of Miss Julie, and what about seeing Zoe naked,” Cassidy repeats the names Adon had jotted on a piece of paper, the two women he was supposed to call and say Adon wasn’t coming back.
They hadn’t only talked about this wild plan. They’d spoken a lot about the road to Port Au Prince. Adon had written Zoe a long letter on a bunch of airplane napkins and mailed it from Miami. He’d wanted to testify about what was running through his mind before he jumped ship. He’d written another letter about why he was staying, needed Cassidy to give it to her. Cassidy was committed to saying just about anything to get Sebastian back to Brooklyn, where they could then revisit everything once rested and in perspective.
Haiti in the imagination of the world was a simple house of death. But Adon had his eyes opened wide so be believed. He was enthralled by these people who bore the world’s weight, who were literally dying not just because they’d been abandoned, but simply because no one seemed to care.
“I don’t have anything to go home to Cassidy, this is my road.”
“Nothing is that black and white. What about that girl, the blonde Ukrainian medical student you always hope is rooting for you, what about her?”
“She won’t notice. But just in case I don’t come back tonight tell her I loved her.”
“Tiputti and the others are tying up a hope in you that may be beyond your ability to carry through. You’ve taken on your shoulders a weight no one asked you to bear. It will break you.”
“Cassidy. Shut up.”
“Damn it Sebastian. I can’t go home until you go home.”
“Well stand your ground then brother. We’re not done yet.”
A little after midnight Adon is running down the road, Cassidy and some army guys are chasing him. The Scientologist Luckner had made a few calls to the UN troops and the 82nd Airborne, said a “wacked out AWOL FDNY EMT” was agitating a group of Haitian street youth to riot and revolt. Told them this “New York spoiled shell shocked crack pot” had threatened violence against some volunteer ministers. Adon surely had a way with the white people.
Adon out runs Cassidy and disappears into the night.
He makes his way into total black darkness completely unafraid of all Haiti’s imagined monsters, ghouls and gangsters, Shatahs, zombies, killers, cannibals and the Loup Garrou herself! There was nothing here but solidarity. There was nothing here but a people made to suffer for over two hundred years for their defiance of the world system and the salve masters.
The Haitian peasants whispered that when the end times come, the great calamity before the end of the existing epoch; the new age the Mayans believed would begin on 21 December, 2012; about two years away; the enduring liberation struggle would be fought and lead by Haitians who knew better than any people how to survive in the wilderness and to out maneuver the salvers and oppressors.
Sebastian Adon now knew with his eyes what he’d long known in his soul; that he man man! A human with integral needs and rights; and he knew as all women and men are forced to know that this world the leaders of it, the big bosses, the capitalists, the bankers and oligarchs they trample our rights. But they are literally killing the poorest of the poor. This island was to be a symbol of the revolution against the oligarchy; and they cut it off, they fueled civil war, the extracted indemnity; they bank rolled murderous dictatorships like those of the Duvaliers. The send NGOs to cripple self-reliance. They, they, THEY! Yes they, the Euro-American colonizers they had tried to exterminate the Haitian people and everyone else.
“There is a statue of Haitian hands holding up the world at a junction several kilometers from the airstrip bearing west,” explained Tiputti Capois.
“You will follow the highway right to it. No one will stop you or bother you. If you are lost, if something happens to me and I am late, you will hold fast at that statue and I will get to you before midnight. And we will cross the city together to the Olofsen hotel. If you see a stranger just say, ‘ANFOM FRERE, it means hey brother are you well; and you will be treated like a Haitian. ANFOM SEOUR if you see a woman, the same thing.”
He wrote a note in Creole for me to read asking to borrow a mobile phone. I waited at the statute for him after evading the marines. He was there by 10:30.
Thus we two travelers set out before midnight from the statute at the junction 2.5 km from the airstrip bearing west carrying nothing except an iridium glow torch and a small bag of medical supplies. The night was a glorious salvation from the tropical hot, hot heat. One was a low level healer, sometime type of Shaman from Brooklyn called an ehemteh, his whiteness caught the shimmer of the full moon. His government name on the US passport was Sebastian Adon, but his Israeli passport said another name. This was his thirteenth day on the island, in the witching hour of his life’s held beliefs. The second traveler was named Tiputti Capois, a Haitian born through and through, no family left at all alive expect his mother and his sister, no more than 18 years old he led the rebel shaman though the sea of refuse, of still unburied bodies, of death’s dying dust in search of an oracle and a fixer. A woman holed up in the Hotel Olofsen, receiving visions that the healer believed might divine some insight as to recent comings and goings, plots and a divine intervention.
The name of that woman was Emma Solomon. He had known her in another life, had last seen her ten years before when they met in Tel Aviv and she was murdered.
The fixer, he was the owner of a grand ginger bread hotel, a white Haitian, a musician and shrewd fixer of political events in country his name was Richard Morse. If they could get to those two people, if he could get Tiputti Capois an audience. It would be ok if the marines took him away back to Babylon.
Following broken shattered roads, downed power line, crumbled homes with gof only knew how many people trapped now certainly dead underneath them and fallen street signs trekking ever on the incline. Sebastian feverishly pursues the oracle, feverishly being driven by the spirits toward his destiny. Tiputti feverishly pursues a glimmering hope he ties up in Sebastian’s plot, also perhaps a twenty dollar bill Mr. Whitely gave him, also inspired by the words this blan spoke of freedom, of rights, or liberated Haiti; it was as if the four father took turns speaking though him; it was like the Lwa rode him for here and used his pale corpse to address them of the new opening, the new chance to achieve the aims of their 200 plus year revolution; and the moon lit the way rooting for no one.
Occasionally the pair would come across a young man or woman sitting along the road staring out into the nothing left of the city.
“Zombies” explained Capois.
They would sometimes revive and ask Tiputti where he was taking the blan healer clad in blue and black uniform with a red bandana tied around his neck. Tiputti would point toward the mountains, tell them in Creole help was coming. At times they’d give him a short horror story and he’d write down their address in hopes the aid trucks began bussing food rations into the cities interior, instead of just up mountain to the elites. Sebastian would look on, or smoke a cigarette and watch the smoke entranced.
On and on they climbed that night, when the roads ceased to be, over rubble piles over bodies, past the stench of the recently dead.
They passed US soldiers surprised to see a white man in an FDNY uniform passing through the night. They made no effort to help or hinder, but filled his canteen up with water. He asked them to notify staff sergeant CJ at general hospital that he would not be returning to duty there. They took rides from Haitian National Police. The took taptaps, the walked for miles or in Haiti kilometers from the airstrip to the Olofsen. Eventually a group of young men with red bandannas on their faces greeted them near the third perimeter.
The tertiary defenses of the Olofsen.
Dawn approaching with rooster cries they came across a large assembly in a square not far from the hotel. Several men and women were giving orders, they were all around a big UN map of the city, marked with dots and squiggles.
“They are planning to raid MINUSTAH supply depots.”
“The occupational army of Brazilians that torments us and keeps the NGO and retired Maccoute regime in power, yes the UN.”
They all wore red bandanas. They at first seemed shocked to see Adon, uncomfortable with a blan these dawn raiders, these Haitian freedom fighters, whatever they were.
“Lavalas,” explained Tiputti, taking him away from the gathering.
“What’s that mean?”
“The cleansing flood, followers of the exiled President Aristede. The largest political party in Haiti; the liberation theological movement of Haiti’s only ever democratically elected leader; exiled President Aristede.”
Sometime around dawn they’d reach the gates of the hotel, and by god the oracle hopefully had some answers because the ground was still shaking and this little rescue mission wasn’t going at all as planned and from the heights of Port au Prince, from the Hotel Olofsen this lonely pair of hope slingers needed to see a miracle or two if they were to persevere.
The Lwa, Jesus and Tiputti Capois guided him up that mountain through that quiet war zone now totally crumbled, body strewn and piled broken capital city of the rebellion to the gates of the Hotel Olofsen.
Now its morning, dreaded and baked by the hot, hot heat. Through a narrow peep hole they are examined, they wait for approval, a blan in blue uniform, and red bandana; the difference between the uniform of Lavalas v. the Tonton Maccoutes is denim of the secret police as opposed to dark navy of the rescuers and the resistance. The red sash of JJ Dessalines or the red flag of socialism.
Sebastian Adon is leaning over my mattress, his Haitian translator standing behind him. I rub my eyes. Isabelle groans and turns over.
“Hey, sorry to wake you up. I can come back if-”
“No, no, that’s alright. What’s going on? How’d you get here?”
“Tell me if you think this is just me being naive, but I really think everyone makes Haiti out to be more dangerous than it is as part of this big international racist smear campaign.”
“I agree.” And I do, completely. Although I would not walk halfway across Port-au-Prince in the middle of the night.
We move the conversation up to the Oloffson’s patio so as not to disturb the Morses’ slumber (there is a big space between Izzy’s pillow and mine where William used to be.)
“So here’s the situation,” Sebastian says. “The soup with too many cooks. So many organizations with so many agendas and too little coordination and too little aid getting to the people.”
“How much of the delay do you think is due to the roads being impassable and the phone lines down and how much is just due to fear of the Haitian people?”
“It’s fear,” Sebastian whispers. His eyes are red. There’s a huge hole in his pants. “Most of the food distributions have been in Petionville. No one wants to go into the poorer neighborhoods.”
Petionville is to Port-au-Prince as Beverly Hills is to L.A.
(You would think after several centuries the Western world would forgive Haiti for winning its independence. But our governments and the media still seem to have a vested interest in making us afraid of Haitians.
This perception of Haiti, and resulting dehumanization of its people, has to change before anything else can.)
“If you’re in this line of work, isn’t a certain amount of personal risk part of the job description anyway? Because if you aren’t helping the people, what are you? Just profiteering. Just another racket.”
“You should eat,” I say, gesturing toward the untouched bowl of cereal I poured for him.
He nods vaguely. “It’s the same situation as with General Hospital. There’s aid in the daytime, but none getting out at night. I want to facilitate between several different organizations, kind of act as an intermediary, to create a night-time aid convoy. Most of the other EMTs have gone home, but I mean, I want to stay a while, I mean, what else do I have to do? I love Haiti. This place amazes me. But what you were saying about the novel you wanted to write before coming here and now you don’t know if that’s what you’ll do, I feel that, because you know I had all these plans of how to be useful-”
“I’m sorry, am I rambling?”
“You need to sleep.”
“Ok, but so here’s what I came to do: I need to talk to Richard. I need someone who can give me a clearer picture of what’s going on here, what the situation was like before the earthquake. And I need to see how much it would cost for space on the driveway.”
I lead Sebastian and his translator down to my mattress and tuck them in, hoping Sebastian will at least take a fucking cat nap, and go off in search of Richard. I find him lying on a foam pad in his living room, moaning with pain. It’s his kidney stones. Again.
For some reason, Richard being in pain crosses some threshold that all the rubble and refugees don’t. The destruction, I can compartmentalize. But Richard Morse being in any way incapacitated makes me feel like I’m about to hyperventilate.
“What do you need?” he asks.
“There’s an EMT guy who wants to talk to you. He was staying in the same compound as the Scientologists. He wants ideas on how to be more effective. I’ll tell him you can talk to him later.”
Eda, an Olofsen employee, massages Richard’s side with some sort of peanut oil. Richard tells her to put some on my hands. “Now rub them together.”
The oil warms faster than Tiger balm, without burning. Why massage therapists across the world have not discovered this amazing product, I don’t know. I ask if Eda is a massage therapist. She shakes her head.
“Everyone in Haiti knows a little massage,” Richard says. “Because we don’t have massage therapists. I’m going to tell you something. It might sound a little funny. I’m an innkeeper and a musician. But when people need favors- presidents, prime ministers- when they’re in a political jam, they call in. Then once I get them out of it, they fuck me over, they red zone me so I can’t even afford to paint my hotel. It’s crazy.”
I nod, because I don’t know what to say, and walk down to the driveway. Sebastian has disappeared.
Tet fe mal. My head hurts.
Immanuel, it turns out, is going across the border tomorrow, not today. I tag Along with Regine and a doctor from the states to visit a displaced persons camp up the hill.
I have been questioning my role and capacity for usefulness here in Haiti. I don’t want to just be an atrocity tourist, sight-seeing sadness. I suppose my contribution is this blog but it is hard to know, from the Oloffson’s patio, what the hell is actually happening. It’s hard for anyone to know what the hell is happening, even people who are out on the ground every day.
I also feel mighty hypocritical criticizing the aid effort while I am blogging and drinking Prestige beer. (A girl was recently found alive after fifteen days trapped in the rubble, and here I was talking shit about the Search and Rescue efforts.)
My skill set: singing, but people have more pressing needs than listening to the blues right now. Massage therapy, but I have no medical training. Writing, but I only leave the hotel to tag along on errands.
But then I realize that Richard really isn’t just a hotel owner and rocker, and Regine isn’t just a film maker, and Sebastian is one person branching out far beyond EMS into diplomacy, and the camp I’m standing in was set up by a couple of nuns. They didn’t have any big international organizations assisting them. They didn’t deal with bureaucracy and red tape or bemoan the “logistical complexity” of the situation. They found an abandoned gingerbread house with a large yard and set up makeshift homes for hundreds of people.
Regine cradles a pair of twins born in the street several hours after the quake. I make funny faces at a trio of little boys peeking out from the flap of their tent. The tent is set up against the fence, giving it a back wall, and bolstered by two nearby trees.
“See,” the American doctor says. “We’d never figure that out. Americans would still be up on the roof of some building, waving their arms and screaming, ‘Help us, help us!’”
The mental image makes me laugh.
“The sleeper Adon, is finally asleep,” we are informed.
“Please wake up Morse.”
There are several young men who help carry the quite unconscious, possibly dead body of Sebastian Adon to a bed in the bunker far below the Hotel Olofsen, a storm shelter, a safe place adorned with a massive veve of Papa Legba in blue grey ash and sand. Earthquake proof. Maccoute proof. Everything proof.
They lay his corpse and strip off his uniform for wash and mending. Lay has flaccid dead and naked self upon a bed. They cover him in herbs we use to raise the dead.
“Death is only scary to those who are not living right, that’s clear. You’re not afraid and neither are the 316,000 martyrs because you know that you’re going soon to the ocean going back to Guinea; then to be reborn. Among you are the Old Souls, those that can remember what they have seen before.”
A voice comes to me in death, but it is not god or Emma Solomon. It is the Uogan Richard Morse.
“You are a student of history and you are well read, considering how few people in humanity can even read or have access to books often it is easier to drown out the truth than suppress it. Or alter it beyond recognition. Did you know they, they the Oligarchs feed on our pain, which is why they cause it; not wealth or power! It excites them, they commune with it. Nearly 7 billion human souls screaming in torture, like seven billion circles of hell up a ghastly mountain fortress though to be a globe. Slavery is the greatest trick, the longest trick they ever pulled upon us and we Haitians were the only strong enough to defeat it. And this is why we live now as we live.”
I am dead, it’s easy to listen in death.
“Did you know that everything that Jesus and Mary Magdalena, all the ancient people they had practices to heal, to raise the dead they lived without war and without poverty or famine for many thousands of years. Did you know that all the speak of zombies, cannibals and satanic rituals were the very monstrosities our many prophets fought against. Did you know they have taken the words and likeness of Yeshua and Prophet Muhammad and slaughtered humanity in the names of old soul heroes?
“Maybe one day they will say Sebastian Adon died in Haiti, died three times overwhelmed by what he saw. Died one time in failed plane to get there. Died again poisoned by assassin in Miami. Died in the aftershock which took out the hospital, killed him as he huddled with a limbless woman. Died in a hail of gun fire when marines fired into the crowd. Died in the night, sucked dry up the Loup Garrou; the werewolf slash vampire of Haiti. Eaten alive my zombies. And died again in the mountains, captured and killed, shot twice and dumped in shallow grave alongside Tiputti and ten other leaders of the latest revolt.”
It’s so dark, dark like the womb not the night. Dark like the universe not the grave.
“Or maybe they will say that Adon the tragic hero came alive for the first time. That it was we Haitians who gave you the salt of freedom, the salt to bring the Zombie back to life. Perhaps angels guarded you from birth, perhaps the spirits joined them for it seems to me that no matter what mythology we equate to your survival; you are one of the luckiest men on earth. Incredibly protected and incredibly hard to kill. For each and every time you have died, Emma has found you and shifted reality, pulled you out the rabbit hole each time in a new reality alive, alive and ready to keep fighting for your people.”
I have no mouth to scream or no eyes to see for I am again a soul without a vessel.
“Emma cannot see you today. She is herself spread thin transferring all these souls off the island and out to sea, out to spread the message of the new social gospel, and finish the work of the greatest uprising the world of man has seen. It is good to meet you, for I have read a lot about you, read a lot about your work.”
“My name is Richard Morse,” I’m the master of this house. I’m the guardian of the machines we are using on this island to turn the tides against the devils who have kept us bleeding for so long.”
“You will awake in a new body. You will be immediately arrested and taken back to Babylon, taken back to the citadel on the top of the mountain where your oligarchy bank rolls its war machine. You will return to the island in one year’s time under the pretext of training Haitians in medical skills, but it will be a joint exchange; you will teach us tools to mitigate injury and illness; but we will teach you tools to proliferate freedom.”
“You will use the things we teach you to break the quarantine once and for all.”
“They will whisper that Haiti and Haitians changed you, and it does, it changes everyone for far better or far, far worse. It exposes the animal or the human in man, and in woman. You have been on this road for so long that you forget your face. You have been seduced by your plantation and forgotten there are many, many many more plantations killing away at far faster speeds than your ambulance plantation in the City of New York.”
Emma Solomon, mother of messiahs anoints you and the 316,000 other fallen in the temblor send to kill us and crush our bones. And the souls of you martyrs, the martyrs of 12 January will leave this cursed, and battered place and awake in the bodies of future heroes.”
“For all my power and all my connections I know not who caused this quake. Were it gods, vile things in the sky which hate us. Fight them for us. Were it the work of Scientologists, Israelite spies, neo-Duvalierist or oligarchs I know not. Fight them. We are human goddamn it, we are women and men and they reduce us to ash. You fight. As long as you have a heart that still beats, and two lungs to give speeches and breathe air, hands to write, hands to heal hands to fight you, legs to stand; you fight you never give those rat bustards a single inch, not a centimeter even, not a speck.”
The cold corpse of Sebastian Adon gasps air.
“Pretty soon daddy you’re gonna wake up in Brooklyn Babylon and you’re gonna, get the drugs and alcohol out of your vessel, you body system; you’re gonna come back online with the fire of old soul self-burning. You’re gonna remember fighting besides Cyrus, fighting besides Yeshua ben Yosef, besides the prophet Muhammad, besides Saladin and Johanna of the Arc, fighting beside Robespierre and Toussaint! Besides Lenin, Fidel and Che. You’ll remember the January 1st raid on Wall Street and the Great Temples. You’re gonna remember what your destiny is. You’re gonna remember what they did to your wife and your child. You’re gonna hit back for every single one us. Hit back alongside us. You’re gonna teach men and woman to heal. You’re gonna wake up the dead. Some men dread 30, but historically that’s when Old Souls do their finest work.”
The blood flows back to my body. My heart beats again.
Adon lay on the mattress looking up at the sky. He hadn’t slept, not in a long time. There was a letter folded over in his breast pocket, seven pages worth of detailed instructions for Tiputti Capois and their compatriots, written in terse military language. A shorter second letter, although perhaps more lush of language was a complete admittance of his tremendous feelings for Zoe Perechenova, the woman he’d been writing for seven months to save his soul. It was his intention to send the first letter to Tiputti Capois, via Tiputti who’d accompanied him on his long night journey he’d pledged to the others his undying loyalty. His letter for Zoe would be given to Cassidy, who surely would try and leave the country by today, despite all his proclamations to hold the mission down.
His mind wanders far and wide. There is very large rip in the leg of BDUs that needs mending, wait it has been mended. Strange. Will Zoe think it cruel that he only finds the courage to love her on the edge of his possible death, or actual death revived? He believes that if he can get to the mountains by the end of the day, he may die, but good and noble courage might carry the plan through without him, in that case the first letter is useless. More likely is the impending calculus that he will be arrested, and deported ingloriously, where by the second letter can serve no use.
Failure like flies swarm him as he lies, Phoebe has gone off, perhaps to inform on him, perhaps to find Richard Morse, perhaps to her duties, whatever those might be. He sleeps not so long, less than ten minutes, it isn’t fair, a tease really to even call it a nap.
Awaking with a convulsion on the mattress, he is alone except for Tiputti Capois his friend and guide. Tiputti who had shown up at the General Hospital on the very first day in a boy scouts uniform to help. Tiputti, who wanted to be an EMT enough to risk crossing the whole damn city at night Tiputti, is keeping watch over Adon. Hopes he’ll sleep.
One of the Hotel security guards tells Tiputti Capois that the American military are looking for Adon at the General hospital. Whitley paid 20 USD for Tiputti to watch over him last night. Adon had paid Tiputti 20 as a tip for crossing the city alive, Tiputti was insulted and refused the money. Now Adon awoke quickly from his slumber, pressed an envelope into his hand. Again Tiputti resists.
“What is this?” asks Tiputti.
“In case they take me today. A plan for Unit C to survive in case they take me, or I can’t get back. Its diagrams of leadership structures and a list of groups and people I’ve met here that might help you. Give it to the other leaders.”
“I don’t understand. We don’t need you money.”
Adon takes out the remaining cash in his wallet, hopes he’s made enough of impression on Phoebe to not be charged for his breakfast. It’s about 80 bucks.
“It’s all I’ve got. Give this money and show these things to the others if I get pinched today. I suspect I will be taken.”
“We don’t need anything from you, except your brotherhood. Here or in foreign lands.”
“You already spoke to Morse. We will leave quickly then, to the mountains, I will find the others. This was your plan,” insists Tiputti.
Morse, yes Morse what of Richard Morse the man he came to see. It was as if he’d had his mind wiped out. As if no sleep had let the Lwa ride him, do the talking for him. Carry him for the past two weeks.
“You need to go find Cassidy. Go find the others, I’ll call your cell when I wake up, after I talk to Morse. ”
“You spoke to Morse already blessed your hands.”
Interesting what this man does and does not remember. Such as speaking with Morse in the lower temple, such as Richard Morse offering his vast forces to shield Tiputti Capois and the medical guerrillas of Unit C from the numerous aggressors. Notably the UN, CIA and former Maccoutes.
“If you leave, no one will hate you,” Tiputti tells him.
“We’ll be in the mountains by nightfall frère.”
Tiputti doesn’t leave. He knows he’ll probably never see Sebastian Adon again, contrary to predictions the Ougan Morse has made. He doesn’t hate him for proving what many whispers said was inevitably true. The whites tinker ‘til tired then leave. They get tired quickly in the death and the heat.
After Tiputti finally falls asleep on the deck, the not really sleeping went on, Phoebe still hadn’t returned, he was sure he looked like a mess. He didn’t want to be charged to sleep on this mattress. The Olofsen just wasn’t as nice as everyone hyped it up to be. It was shady though, and well-arranged and classical, and the voodoo flags flew in the sometimes gust of wind. Not much wind.
Always this smell of death and smoke.
And the wandering mind remembered the night before, the walk from the Airport to the Olofsen, taking in all that death by night. There were spirits in the darkness, but they did not malign Adon nor his guide. They had walked all night to find answers, immediate answers Adon somehow kidded himself into thinking were held in this place.
Morse would laugh at him and his plan, hadn’t he? Or had he blessed it. And Phoebe, she was just a tourist too. They were well meaning tourists, but all tourists go home. He’d get picked up pretty quick in a blue FDNY polo shirt that bore his name. Why’d he come here again? Just to help. He’d helped, he already outstayed his tour of self-deployment, he was already two weeks AWOL from the FDNY.
Why’d he run all the way across night up into the hills: ‘Cause if he stayed at the airport they’d have deported him. Just like in Israel a few weeks before.
He thought about the night journey, passing miles and miles of collapsed buildings, and body piles and all that stench of death that pervaded the nostrils, soaked to the clothes. All those people that had been lost, largely because the government of Haiti didn’t have building codes.
“Nobody asked you to do this, you took it upon yourself,” EMT Cassidy Vale had told him. They all had, all the brave men and women who’d dropped their lives and come down in the first two waves. Thousands from around the world. But all those volunteers, had something to go home to.
And even Cassidy felt inside that their work wasn’t nearly done.
Adon had a job that sought to kill him, bleed him dry. A woman he was fucking who was a passing thought. Another woman he realized he loved, but as he was a coward, such a coward he needed to hide behind an island of death to express that emotion in writing. A Zion he wasn’t welcome in. Why go home now? Stay here rest a little, recuperate, and escape to the mountains.
He needs Cassidy, his current partner, his voice of reason, and the partner he ditched in the dark streets running into last night.
He needs to put the last thirteen days in perspective. He begins to quietly cry looking down at the City of Port-au-Prince. Cries like he’s never cried in his life. He sees finally, finally on the thirteenth day what might be called the totality of suffering. He sees it all at once. The rapes in the sugar cane, the crack of the masters whip, the mutilations of slaves, the tin masks, the burning colony, the two hundred years of isolation, the Duvalier years the purge of Lavalas and Aristede. Imperial meddling. The boat people, the sharks eating corpses, the trafficking, and the quake. He had briefly been standing to smoke, but falls to his knees and discards the cigarette.
He sees that he is just a scared little boy. Not as tough as he thought he should be. Not ready for what he’s supposed to do next.
He slaps himself, hopes machismo alone will drag him if it has to into those mountains. So many wretched people, living like this for so long. And he was just a man. The terror of balancing the world on your shoulders, is when you slip, and slip you will, no one else will want to try and pick it up.
Paramedic Emile Cange almost stayed, promised he’d comeback, said if they were gonna do this they had to do it right, plot it out back in Brooklyn. Bring back a solid crew, some real equipment, get a base.
A reporter from the Washington Post snaps some pictures of Adon crying his eyes out in uniform. Dirty, bloody sweaty grime on FDNY uniform that he shouldn’t really have been wearing.
The guards watch him sob to himself on his knees in the dirt. Seated among them is Fritz LaForrest.
“Why does the blan cry?” one guard asks another.
“He cries as if this were his people, perhaps we were his people in another life ” notes Fritz in Haitian Creole.
Adon is on his knees, his head in his hands, his head in the dirt. He sees Zoe’s face and wants her to hold him, wants to cry in her arms more than he’s wanted anything in his life. He wishes he was dead, better to be dead than to be a coward. But he does not possess the fight to lead Tiputti and his men to their glory, and he’s not a man willing to lead others to their graves. Nor is this his land, his people, his country; right? No one asked him to come!
“I would clap for you two or three claps, or perhaps you would prefer I play a tragic violin,” says towering Fritz, who works for someone who pays well and wants this man out of country before dark, or two shots.
“You did a very good job Mr. Adon. Now it is time to get you home before the hostilities commence.”
For the earthquake had only interrupted briefly the long running war between Lavalas and the former Maccoutes and the Group of 184; the local oligarchy running the show.
Fritz helps him up out of the dirt. Hands him his medical bag and his kit. Adon gets into a waiting car. It drives him to the airport. Twice the driver asks him, hospital or airport. Hospital where the Unit C men are waiting, or into the hands of the marines for arrest and deportation.
The Marines place him in immediate arranged custody, Cassidy talks them out of bringing him back to America in full manacles. Reports are filed, then lost. Everyone seems happy he’s alive. Post-traumatic stress disorder. A Marine, tells Adon, ‘you meant well brother, but this is a mess best left in the hands of the paid professionals’.
And sure it was.
Cassidy and Adon are to be evacuated to Miami, Florida a little later in the afternoon in a military cargo plane loaded with Haitian civilians who were lucky enough to have blue passports.
“Sak passé?” asks Cassidy Vale.
“Nap Boule,” Sebastian Adon responds. We’re on fire.
The afternoon before they left, before Sebastian showed up to be arrested at the airport. A woman called someone from Unit C and asked to speak to Cassidy Vale, she introduced herself as Maya Solomon from the Jenkins Penn Haiti Relief Organization; a new celebrity funded endeavor; they had head a group of young Haitians wanted to be EMTs, had heard Cassidy Vale was “a dependable dude.”
Why don’t you get Sebastian back to New York, you wait two weeks you hear from us we’ll salary you for six months to form up a team to take care of the camps on the Petionville golf course. That’s called in a Gaelic, am offer he can’t refuse based on a duty to act that is clear as the sky turns black and blue.
Dominich Asbun, the Palestinian-Columbian EMT, soon on his way to medical school reflects back in Brooklyn about their recent trials, works and projects. He packs his things from out his tint apartment near the above ground J train rails in on the Bushwick-Bedstuy boarder.
It’s harder than I thought it’d be, even though I haven’t (much) questioned my decision to come back now. I don’t know what it is that I can’t shake, but I think it’s less of what you might expect off the top of the dome – I don’t feel appalled by the return to excess that is American living juxtaposed with living in and by a situation of such deep scarcity. Nor is it really a comparison of all that suffering in Haiti to all this comfort and self-centeredness in the US. Though, I was pretty fucking annoyed at JFK waiting for my bags by CNN on over the luggage carousel, with breaking news of a car chase in Las Vegas, no reports yet on who is being chased or why he or she’s being chased, stay tuned for updates, and Quest’s Travel Clinic, germs are everywhere and you should wipe everything down with wipes after someone touches it, wipe your passport and wipe your hand and wipe your cock, and let’s follow Quest to the store and buy this and this and this and this – “Spend money now, stay healthy later” – then why we should invest in gold or buy an LG TV, and in world news John Travolta arrives in Haiti, carrying a team of doctors and nurses and Scientologist Volunteer Ministers. So let’s say the frivolity and dumbassity of our mainstream culture can be bothering but that’s nothing new, though I guess it is much harder to put up with after something like the experience of Port-Au-Prince. But, as I was saying, it’s also moving away from a direct and irrefutable importance (if you want to see it that way), a feeling of doing something and doing something good that people really, really need, and then walking away from that importance and that need and not sure if you’re turning your back on someone or on yourself or it’s just hard to get back to stability when part of your mind has switched to Survive Within the Instability mode. I don’t want to talk too much to (most) people about so much I’ve seen in so little time (where the fuck do you begin? How will they ever care the same way you do) but for now at least it’s always there.
It’s like being in love: it haunts you the same way and your eyes move to its pulse the same way, and here I am needing sleep, and still actually in love, and plus the in love of leaving Haiti, and already thinking of how and when to get back. Like Emile said, though: gotta be sure to give your mind a break and if you go back, go back strong. I know, and that’s part of why I left, but like in love reason is hard to digest sometimes. It is what it is, as Sebastian once said.
The first day back to work with Delta during briefing there’s debate over when to waive baggage fees, and when to remember that it’s a business and even High Value Customers in this newly begun Year of the Customer have to pay sometimes when the mistakes are theirs. “Atlanta prints a list of which employees waive the most bag fees, as a percentage of total bags checked, and it’s very disturbing to see that some employees waive 100% of the bags they check.” Apart from the hella things to think initially, and I’m at briefing still short on sleep, but nonetheless: at some point in the discussion I’m happy to see these cocksuckers arguing over checked luggage; a lot of them I’m sure are tired of Haiti in the news and most of them, I’m glad, don’t know or really care that I went and, in many ways, am still more there than at JFK. “There ain’t no reason things are this way,” goes one song, and the other, “Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be.” Yea – and like the kids last night in my apartment joking about rotting corpses, we’re nothing but I don’t know how many trillion separate worlds jostling together, sometimes really making our way into one another, but mostly removed and living in the flash of time we’re given and in the end – as far out from everything as you can get – there’s no one to blame for nothing.
My own sphere’s been changed deep and permanent and I’ll keep it that way, just like I’ll keep somewhere with me that first text from Emile Cange about going to Haiti, the next few days of rushing to prepare, a couple hundred dollars here and there and then waiting waiting waiting like it might not even happen; the text on Saturday morning and me telling Al, “I’m going, hommes!” – airports and heavy bags and standing in line forever, the plane over-pumped and missing the landing slot and another fucking night to wait in Miami; getting to know Sammy and kickin’ it with the team and ‘window seat, please’ and landing at last and inside the plane throwing boxes of water bottles out and sweating, hours on the tarmac and leaving and that’s slowly how we started seeing Port-Au-Prince: one small section at a time, hours there and then bused somewhere else and hours there; at the first compound sleeping by makeshift gym equipment and using the bench press mats for sleeping, the tent as a mat, the people posting up on the roof next to us and making everyone a little nervous; the boxes of Balance Bars and similar and three people guarding the distribution of water; Cliff Bars and Vic’s huge bag of things to eat, the dogs roaming the compound and eating our scraps, somehow; the bright yellow shirts of the scientologists and what the fuck are they all doing here anyway, though they did help us a lot, and watching them heal via touch assist and maybe I should grant them the same respect I grant all religions in general despite my general apathy, or maybe it makes complete sense to be bothered with the healing by touch when real medicine is such a scarce and desperate commodity right now; the first trip to the hospital and setting up the first ER, getting blood on your gloves and IV lines, the media everywhere, the abandoned rooms full of absolutely necessary supplies and organizing them and running around looking for more and the first night’s ride back looking out the tap tap at the phantom world around us; the buildings destroyed but not the people and not their movement and the big aftershock and the lady jumping off the balcony and people not wanting to go back inside and what it means to sleep outside on your sleeping bag on concrete with Orion’s Belt and the Big Dipper and Polaris and all the rest of the order up there steady and constant above you while your shoes are your pillow; more days at the hospital and nights at the hospital and fighting to keep your head level, your senses clear, alert; to need sleep but go on without it because people need so much more and always something to do if you want to keep moving badly enough; the media spotlight if you want it and a little disgust at the camera-chasers whether you want it or not; getting to know people brought up in Port-Au-Prince and stories and seeing the maddening beauty of some Haitian women, and the almost-mad way some Haitian men offered and asked for blood-backed loyalty; talking one friend out of suicide over that loyalty and talking another into getting the fuck out of Haiti, despite that loyalty; still needing more people and more supplies in a place already so congested; meeting cousins of friends and cousins of friends of friends and looking for family members out of touch and looking at the endlessly heavy piles of rock and steel and wondering always how many bodies still down there, how many people still alive? The life of the island itself, separate from the people: dogs and chicks and hens and the mountains, distant but surely alive, barefoot again in the grass and with this same pen in hand, climbing the mango tree and carving into it, the way the sun came steadily no matter what had transpired during the night, the wind and the ocean in the distance, all of it a reminder of how small our presence is compared to the permanence of the land; the smell of bodies and it wasn’t everywhere like the news said but when it was there you knew it and it felt like the smell knew you, somehow – writing shit down as if trying for poetry has absolutely anything to do with it, but my pen handy still….the new wave of BSVAC and to be a leader and to see how little you can affect anything on a large scale, and praying it doesn’t become funny and still coming up with plans and ideas; the camps by the airport and the UM field hospital feeling better than the General Hospital, even at night AC, and feeling somehow rogue everywhere thanks to the guns and the disorder and they say it’s a good idea to stay with your group but you can do whatever the hell you like, ultimately, except get on a plane to the US without an American passport; flashing my passport and waiting for the plane, waiting and finally a Coast Guard plane opens up and it’s strange to fly and not have a window to look out of, the movement keeps you guessing at everything but when you land you know for sure; the flight back to NYC and the haze that is lack of sleep, not sure of what you’re doing and still in love with something horrible and beautiful – I’ll keep it somewhere with me and I don’t know when I’ll go back. It’s with me, even though each day back is a little more grounding, and even though the boots I wore jumping into planes and lifting people and moving me through the blood and earth of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, are now being flushed with New York City smog and snow.
I soon later met Cassidy and Sebastian about a week after they got back, sometime around 4 February, Sebastian picked us up in a White Honda Civic. We drove to the Dutch Kills Bar in Queens near the Citicorp Tower. The floor was covered in saw dust, there was gypsy Jazz playing and we took a small table in the back, for a critical stress debriefing.
Sebastian asked the tender for a drink called ‘the fire fighter’, I had vodka soda, and Cassidy had a beer. And we tried to as to figure out, what had or hadn’t’ happed. Who was to blame and why.
Sebastian told me about Unit C, about his promise, that crazy promise too many people probably made the Haitians to come back with resources. This was interesting though, a plan to train them as EMTs. We drank a lot at the ethanol fueled ‘post-stress debrief’. Having shared such a mass trauma it was important for all of us to believe there was something we could do, we made a pact to try.
Cops pulled us over on the bridge home at a check point on the Pulaski Bridge. We were all drunk as shit, Sebastian at the wheel. But out car full of EMTS though got to keep it moving. I was off to medical school in Dominica, Cassidy would be back in Haiti in just a few weeks and would stay there laying the ground for the Unit C group and surely a lot was still to be done. Sebastian pledged to use his group the Banshee Association to pull together the resources we’d need for the redeployment. The plan was intuitive; to form an EMT Modular training and teach whoever was left from Unit C how to carry it out.
Then mass train Haitians as rescue workers.
I don’t know if anyone can take away from a story what we saw down there. All the bodies, all the misery and all the death. I wouldn’t be able to rejoin the efforts until after my training as a physician. Cassidy would spend the next six months in Haiti and three months after in Pakistan and his life would never be the same again. Sebastian was apprehended by the secret police and ambulance workers the day after our pact in the bar.
He was supposedly interred in Coney Island Hospital and put to death via drugs and needles, electricity. While inside those hospital walls being rearranged and tortured the FDNY began a most rigorously staffed investigation to purge him from its ranks.
But, Sebastian Adon, so beloved by the gods and spirits; forty days later he was reborn and an angel was sent to retrieve him and put him back to his hard works. The trial and the witch hunt for card carrying Banshees soon upcoming, organized by the FDNY’s Bureau of Investigations and Trials were to actually be the very least of his concerns.
The Chief of the New York City Fire Department, Chief Perugia a bluberous man, long alarmed by the Banshee News paper’s general agitation in union, wage and racial equality concerns stated bluntly, “this is exactly what we need to put him on trial and discredit that goddamn paper once and for all. Investigator Shields and five others would interview no less than 75 witnesses over the next two years and produce 38 charges against Adon for Haiti related matters.
In a recorded interview conducted by the Bureau of Investigations and Trials:
“You know what gets me with all you tree hugging “save the world” psychopaths? You all go running down for the latest cause, and then leave, having made yourself feel good. How come none of you want to relocate to Haiti? I mean come on, you are all gonna save the planet, and everyone on it… Why not go live there? Oh that’s right… because if you tried the shit you all pull up here they would cut your fucking heads off with a machete!
Tell me Sebastian “I must be a legend in my own mind” Adon, hypothetically speaking of course… What is your opinion on a person who leaves his post on his City Ambulance to just run down and play hero for two weeks? Do you think that person should be butt fucked when he gets back to work?
What kind of a message does that send to the rest? I mean, a person just leaves his post because he feels the need to be a raging asshole? And what about the people who work at that job whose lives get disrupted because they are now forced to work in the slots created by the self-absorbed liberal scumbag who left his post? What do you think about a scumbag like that, hypothetically speaking?
I can tell you my opinion… Hypothetically speaking, I hope that the employer of that raging scumbag bends him over and drives the ambulance he walked away from straight up his ass…Sideways.”
Such was submitted by the Bedford Stuyvesant Ambulance Corps. Both Rocco who had served down there but one night and Danny Marks only by day, who both testified against Adon in the upcoming trial. Captain Raeburn, the commanding officer refused to testify in either direction.
In another letter, of which there would eventually number hundreds both praising and indicting EMT Sebastian Adon to the Bureau of investigations and trials:
“With all due respect, I do not approve of anyone using profanity, or launching personal attacks on anyone, in any forum. While Sebastian is to be admired for his drive, there is a reason that protocols are put in place, and it is not “as you put it, the piece of paper” that is essential, but the background, education and experience that is the most important asset in working mass casualty incidents.
Mr. Adon, not only misrepresented his level of training, but attempted to circumvent the Command structure established for the safety of all working on the ground in Haiti. Furthermore, he violated several well established and venerated safety procedures that in fact, placed others in grave jeopardy.
Among the worst of his transgressions, was believing that he had the authority to try take command over a compound that was being led by individuals with more experience, knowledge and organizational skills based on years of performing disaster emergency medicine.
His behavior ultimately disrupted the continuity of care, he refused to accept what his designated role as not important enough, and decided to freelance, because working within the team concept was unacceptable to him. It is a shame that he did not want to be humble and learn and a further shame that he had to be detained by the USMC to ensure that he left the country.
Lastly whether he likes it or not, he has a job in NYC, and he is relied upon to show up for work and perform that job. Having his relatives call him in as sick and lie about his whereabouts is just plain wrong and dishonest and places a strain on an already heavily stressed 911 system.
His intentions might have been well placed, but his poor judgment and actions cannot be excused, nor should they praised, because he became more of a problem than part of a solution.”
This came from an “anonymous responder”, but along with many more came from the Church of Scientology due to their “fair game” policy or ruin any and all who critique them.
In another letter to the Bureau of investigations and trials:
“The actions and tactics used by EMT Adon were dangerous to personnel on the ground in Haiti. They exhibited a total disregard for authority and leadership structure of any kind.”
Fuck. Where the fuck am I? Where, the fucking hell am I?
What did they do with her!
Damn my weakness!
I’ve shot myself in the face and the foot, again I know it.
Sebastian Adon wakes up in a small locked room in Coney Island Hospital. He’s wearing aquamarine scrubs; the left leg has the hospital name and logo on it, that’s just about the only way he knows where he is, or what time zone he may be in. Déjà vu, in the worst possible way over takes him. The last thing he remembers, or suspects is a party valid memory; he was riding in the rear of tap-tap truck into the tallest mountains of Haiti. He was dying of thirst, amongst other things. He thinks he remembers the smell of iron. The taste of his own blood, the smell of rotting corpses and their rankness magnified by the impervious heat clearing out into cool mountain air. He is in cuffs. He is blind folded. He is huddled with other prisoners. He is then taken and shot twice in the head and the last thing he remembers is the smell of the grass.
But now he’s back in Breuklyn, or is it Brooklyn; which means quite a lot hasn’t gone to plan; at least also for those that had meant to put him in the ground.
He now rubs his most groggy head.
Stands shakily up in his small locked padded room. Looks in a wall mounted mirror, all his hair is gone. He looks a little fitter, looks a little tanner, but he still doesn’t really recognize his face. His last memory of Haiti is sitting in the back of a flatbed truck, driving into the hills to train guerrilla medical workers. Being captured and shot for it.
Something obviously has gone quite wrong.
He takes water from the sink and splashes his face. The name “Cassidy Vale” is stuck in his head, but he doesn’t remember who that is, completely, if at all. The last thing he was thinking was how fresh the grass smelled lying in it and how the tropical soil smelled as he bled into it.
How the Island might bring him back to life.
The Island and what was buried below it, and the machines that caused the earthquake.
The machines? Yes, the machines that caused the earthquake. The flying saucer men!
His no good, terrible, very bad year when all had completely fallen apart was now coming back in parts. 2010, a shit show. The view from an Israeli prison window was emerging; Jeremy and Maria were dead; Theodore Becker too. He was attempting to piece everything back together. And then the ground shook below him.
Knocking him to the floor.
The year is 2010 Common Era. He tries to repeat what he knows about himself like crazy people do in movies or bet noire lit. ‘I’m a City EMT. I’m locked up in the funny farm, again. Except, something, everything has been changed.’
What the hell was he doing back in New York City?
He dashes the face he can barely recognize against the mirror.
The next day, they discharged him as if nothing very serious had happened.
They said some “special lady friend” was coming to collect him; told him to take it real slow, that he needed to take his meds and not let his mind wander; that he was “one of them”, “a hero”, part of “the department”. They told him he might have some memory lapses, but not to worry; everything was going to be fine. He had the Seroquel blues and five other various vials, lithium of course; the hand-shakes, the world was a black and white copy; he’d done this all before and it didn’t seem real.
This broad, who he doesn’t recognize with long blond-brown hair picks him up in a white Honda Civic that she says is his, but he remembers driving a yellow Chevy Blazer.
She says her name is “Adelina”, but that’s an untruth as far as his inclinations tell him. She looks gorgeous so he plays along. She tosses him a pack of American Spirits, but for shit sure he always thought he smoked Newports. Or Noblisse; what’s Noblisse he asks himself.
‘Adelina’ says she’s taking him to a good Russian banya. A clean one where they don’t speak English. The Mermaid Spa in Seagate to lounge out and get his stress out.
“My head’s all back fucked,” Sebastian says to this broad, who is apparently also his old lady, “what’s today’s date?”
“It’s March baby, March 13th. You better drop more on flowers and dinner for me tonight babe.”
“When did I get back from Haiti?”
“Haiti? What are you talking’ about babe?”
“I went down to Haiti on January 16th. Right after the earthquake. With the Bedstuy volunteers and the Church of Scientology. When did I get back?”
She looks at him a little crazy person look. She quietly stares, watches him take a pull of his cigarette, she looks a lot more like a “Elena” than a Adelina.
“Baby boy, listen, you gotta try and remember that not all you remember is real. You tried to kill yourself on February 2nd, the anniversary of Jeremy’s death. You took a lot of those blue pills. Near Overd’ed; you’ve been in Coney Island Hospital since then. About forty days they wanted, but you’ve got friends in the management. Which isn’t that bad. You kept asking the doctors about Haiti, telling um you were down there as a medic, but baby, you ain’t ever been to Haiti. There’s no such thing as a Haiti.”
“What about the earthquake, I mean I vividly remember going down to a place called Haiti after an earthquake.”
“What earthquake? What’s Haiti?” But he can see in her eyes she knows what Haiti is.
“The big fuckin’ earthquake. That just happened in Haiti.”
“What’s Haiti? What are you talking about?”
She gives him a look.
“There wasn’t a big earthquake. There’s no such place called Haiti. The doctors say you concocted this whole fantasy world after your attempted suicide to cope with the problems in your life. But it’s going to be ok. I’m not gonna leave you un-attended.”
“What do I do for a living?”
“What? Are you serious?”
“Dead serious, before I tried to kill myself what did I do for a living.”
“You’re a fire fighter baby.”
That didn’t any logical sense.
“I thought I was an EMT.”
“You used to be an EMT before you took the fire fighter promotional a year ago. You really don’t remember?” She looks at him sympathetically. Puts her finger quietly to her lips.
“Everything is big grey mess,” he says.
“Baby, you gotta be careful, you gotta take your pills, this bipolar disorder is gonna do you in. You make me so worried about you.”
“But I don’t know how to fight fires. I drive an ambulance, I carry fat hysterical Puerto Rican women down stairs. I give people their oxygen.”
“Are you sure about that? Think harder about that.”
Then pins begin to fall and Sebastian gets a shiver up his spine. He doubles over a second, and low and behold, she was right. He hadn’t been on an ambulance in over a year. The Republic of Haiti never existed at all. He now remembers becoming a fire fighter at the age of twenty five; remembers working first on a ghetto Engine in Brownsville before getting sent back to the South Bronx, remembers it all more clearly than any of the vague notions of this “Haiti” he’s clinging to.
Something has clearly been changed. He never stayed as an EMT, why would anyone do that shitty miserable job even if it paid more than enough to survive? He’d never gone back to Israel and been viciously programmed and tortured. And the earthquake never happened, because there was no such real place as the Republic of Haiti. There had been a switch, and he was clinging to fragments of memories from a reality that was unraveling quietly.
“Get it Sebastian? What happened on that island was all in your head. You have bipolar baby, shit, you’re a sad mess my brave battered lover dear. But you baby are a hard bodied, sexy hero. New York’s Bravest. And I’m gonna stick by you no matter what, and ride the shit out of you when we get home.”
What’s real anyway?
This broad, this broad who he’s never seen before in his life, claiming to be his lady friend. The name “Blazhennaya”, seems stuck in his head, who that really was he had no idea either.
“How long was I in the bin?”
“Forty days Daddy. They had to use the current on you, get the pins to realign in your crazy man head.”
“It felt so real, I was in Haiti; and I was an EMT!”
“Like a paramedic baby? In Haiti? If I didn’t love you so much I’d never be able to put up with your way too crazy shit. You know I love you so much baby, right? Otherwise I couldn’t put up with this mad shit.”
And yet he thinks, who are you again?
What had happened? The airlift, the medical internationalist column, the revolution, Cassidy, Dominich, Tiputti Capois and the machinations of Mr. Whitley, and now, back in New York it faded away like a bad dream. His “girlfriend” was alive, he’d never become a medical worker that long, he’d never gone to that evil Jerusalem colony; and he was severely bipolar. But you can forgive a New York City fire fighter just about anything except pension fraud. Sebastian Adon looking out the car window onto Ocean Parkway begins to cry with joy.
It was all just a terrible nightmare.
“Don’t cry baby. Men don’t cry,” the woman he’s never seen before tells him.
She opens the glove compartment of ‘his car’, and hands him a soft embroidered plain grey bandana. He covers his face with it to wipe his less than manly tears.
By the time they’re done with the banya, nine hours later and he’s naked in her arms fucking her like an savage animal, it’s as if the whole “Haitian” episode was a spooky dream, the “girlfriend” feels and fucks familiar, as he packs his cock inside her from behind he thinks her hair color seems to change color as they tantrically thrust. Like maybe she is super natural. Or maybe she is someone he’s had by his side for a while. Her eyes get big as she sucks on him.
He fucks her violently.
She resents such animalism coming from such a fourth dimensional man.
He still has a job on Engine 808, because it’s a civil service position and even firemen go crazy once in a while. As long as they do it off the clock and out of public view.
“Firefighting.” A good gig.
After screwing this stranger in every single orifice he goes on to the roof and opens the door to the elevator gear room where he remembers there to be a small metal box. Rubber banded to the top of the box is a dusty laminated placard which states, “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY”. Inside is a pack of Noblisse cigarettes, a signal flair, and a grey leather bound book filled with poems, some naughty drawings, some photos, letters and diary entries. It’s a memory box for the reality he has now arrived in
And that is how he begins to separate the fakeness from the real. With the help of the smoke monster, that sexy brunet angel and maybe also his god hashem. All he’d needed to be well has a good hard fucking a hot banya. To scrub off the death. Scrub off the hospital. Good and well as new.
With Brooklyn snow falling on his face. Ayiti then called Haiti, Haiti made to disappear in the minds of all these plump Northern Euro-Americans and all her sacrifices, all the things that were to come, for a minute he can separate the fakeness from the real. They had lost 1/3 of over 500,000 slaves in a rising against France, England and Spain. They’d exported the revolution to Latin America and abolished Spanish rule there. They were quarantined, forced to pay 21 billion to France occupied by the Americans from 1915-1934, they endured the brutality of Papa and Baby Doc, they endured the hurricanes, floods and now the earthquake. And now no one in this citadel, in this country on top of the mountain cared any more about those poor unfortunate souls.
He’s made an oath to those people that he’d come back with equipment, materials, people and training. He realized that the place in which he had been born was a citadel on the highest mountain, that it was a reality far removed from the hundreds of thousands dying in the ravines below.
He knows that as soon as he puts on that mask and lights a Noblisse he’ll remember absolutely everything, especially thirty days later after a fast to purge the hospital drugs from his mind and body. He knows; he knows he’ll remember his past lives and the other dimensions and the world to come.
He remembers exactly how many times he’s been struck down fighting for the truth.
Adelina, that beautiful creature arrives on the roof in a grey bathrobe. She barely even shivers in the falling snow. Sebastian is on that roof with his little box of memories.
She pities him a little all the things he’s had to do for god, country and Emma Solomon.
“So now with your pretty new face, your cushy new job and two Z.O.B. cells I have in mind for the work and frankly so does your boss Emma Solomon; now that you’re rested, now you got shit shaved showered and fucked like a champ; now you’ve got just nine months to get back down to the island and train those all those people how to break the quarantine once and for all. You up for all that Adon?”
He says something in Hebrew, but she speaks only English, Russian, and Czech and German, he salutes, she salutes and takes her down stairs for another few rounds.
Sebastian Adon loves taking orders from women.
“The Fix Up”
The story of how a rag tag band of ambulance workers, spooks, sex workers and freedom fighters raise a brigade to invade the battered Republic of Haiti and begin a guerrilla medical program for the people.