In a quickly thrown together plan of getting our girls out of the country, things were absolutley crazy!!! Neither one of our planes made it to their intended destination. First be assured though that everything is ok. The story now goes something like this:
We began our morning at 6AM getting all things packed for the girls to go back to the states to stay with my family. We were told that we could get them on a flight out of Jacmel to Santo Domingo, the capital of Dominican Republic. So, the night before, we had my sister and brother book a flight to Santo Domingo where we would meet them and send our girls off with them and then Maria and I would hop an aid plane that would bring us back to Jacmel. So, my brother and sister booked a flight in at 1PM and then booked a flight out with the girls at 5PM. I assured them that I myself along with Maria and the girls would be there to meet them so that they wouldn’t be worried when they got off the plane.
So, we head to the airport just down the road from us at 7AM and wait…and wait… One chopper after another is flying in with rescue teams and reporters. Finally after a few hours of waiting, the plane arrives that would be going back to Santo Domingo. We were then told that there was only one seat left on that plane and that we would have to wait for the afternoon plane instead, which would probably get us into Santo Domingo at 5ish. We begged to be let on and told them that we are trying desperately to get our girls out of any harms way. 2 people were willing to give up their seat and we were so thankful. So, I sent Maria and the girls on the plane and kissed them good-bye as they were now bound for Santo Domingo to meet up with my brother and sister. Only one problem…I found out just before the plane was about to leave that it was going to be flying into Santiago DR instead of Santo Domingo! I was apalled. I was told that the plane was definitely flying to Santo Domingo and that is why I had my brother and sister who would be waiting for them there. But because of such chaos, things change and now this plane was only going to Santiago, about a 2 and a half hour bus ride from Santo Domingo. The pilot said that the bus ride from Santiago would get them into Santo Domingo by about 5PM. This would mean that nobody would be there at 1PM to see my sister and brother when they got off the plane in Santo Domingo. This would also mean that nobody would make their flight back to the U.S. at 5PM. But I did not have any other option to get our girls out. So, I told Maria and the girls to go and that we would figure something out.
As the plane was flying out, I saw another charter plane that was on the runway and the pilot was standing by. I asked him where he was flying to next and he told me that he was going to Santo Domingo! I was excited! I asked him if there was any way that I could hop the plane with him and get to Santo Domingo. He said that they would be there within an hour and that he did not have a problem with me going with the other passengers, even though I had no money to pay. I figured that I could hop this plane and be in Santo Domingo by the time my brother and sister would get there. This way, I could tell them that Maria and the girls would be much delayed but that there is nothing to worry about. So, that would be the plan…so I thought.
The pilot told me that they first had to go to Port au Prince and drop off the existing passengers (press) and he didn’t know who or how many would be then going to Santo Domingo. So, he told me that he could guarantee me a flight to Port au Prince for free, but that he could not guarantee me a flight to Santo Domingo. He said he had no problem with me going, but that he didn’t know if the other group would have a problem. I wasn’t sure what to do. it was a risk. But he told me that he was leaving in like 30 seconds and I had to decide. So, I decided to take the risk and hope to get all the way to Santo Domingo to meet my brother and sister, then meet up with Maria and the girls, and then Maria and I would fly back to Haiti after my brother and sister left with the girls.
Everything was going great. I was even interviewed by the Associated Press on the 15 minute flight from Jacmel to Port au Prince. We landed in Port au Prince and that’s when things took a turn for the worse. There were 4 dominicans that were heading back to Santo Domingo on this 5 seater plane. So, I figured that this would work. We would all fit. then the leader of the group told me that he wanted $1,000 for a spot to fly. I told him that I only had about $100 and that I was desperate just trying to make sure that my wife and little daughters were safe. I begged him, but he said “no way!” He did not want to listen to anything I had to say. He was so rude. I was pleading with him and offering my watch or anything I had just to let me go since there was an available seat. But he wanted nothing to do with me and so he shut the door and the plane rolled out.
So, there I was now. Stuck in Port au Prince airport without a clue as to how I was going to get home. I met another spanish guy who was a pilot who was also trying to get back to Santo Domingo. He told me to follow him and that he knew of a plane that was leaving soon. So, we trekked through the crazy maze of all the diffrerent foreign aid tents that have taken over the airport grounds and made our way to the plane that he was working for. But then we were told that the plane is full and that it would be impossible to get anybody else on. I was so bummed. I was so hot. I was so hungry as I hadn’t eaten anything that day except a granola bar. I was so thirsty as I hadn’t had water since early in the morning. I was sick as my throat and congestion has been getting progressively worse. And then I was so lost…
Seriously, I tried finding my way back to the area where the first plane had landed, but I kept going in circles. I was lost in this maze of foreign aid bases that are littered everywhere. I went up to many chopper pilots and asked if they were going to Santo Domingo. Nothing.
Then I called my haitian friend back in Jacmel who I had asked to try to get in touch with my Mom who might be able to get word to my bother and sister about the situation of Maria and the girls being delayed. He told me that he was able to contact my Mom who was then able to contact my brother and sister and that they are all fine. I couldn’t believe that it was that easy. I didn’t know that my brother and sister would be able to be reached by cell phone. Had I known that, I NEVER would have hopped that plane.
So, now my plan changed. Instead of trying to get to Santo Domingo, now I was trying to get back to Jacmel. Again, I trekked all over the airfields asking pilots, UN people, military people, press people if anyone was heading to Jacmel. Nothing. I was bummed. I was hot. I was thirsty. I was…
So, I figured the best and only option that I had was to contact the Global Outreach Missionary base that was about 45 minutes away and ask them to come and pick me up. Then, I would regroup and still try to get to Jacmel.
They picked me up about 45 minutes later and brought me back to their mission base. It was good to be around some friends, but I really wanted to get back to Jacmel. I spent the night there.
Now, it is the next morning and I am planning to get back to Jacmel by moto taxi, the only way to pass since vehicles are not able to get through. The only problem is that it will require me going through some really hard hit areas and there may be a lot of craziness all around. So, I am having my haitian friend Fenel come up from Jacmel this morning by moto to escort me back down with him. For more safety precautions, I am having him bring me a long sleeve shirt, pants, hat, and sunglasses so that I can cover as much of my body as possible to try to hide the fact that I am white. If they see a white person, they will probably think that I have lots of money and they might try to rob me. They MIGHT…key word. It also may be smooth sailing, I don’t know. So, I just want to take precautionary measures. I will also cover my face with a mask, which won’t look out of place at all since many people are covering their faces to avoid the putrid smells of death and decay all around. So, I think everything will be okay. I will be completely covered so that nobody will be able to tell that I am a blan (white).
My friend should be here in a few hours, and so I should be home by later this afternoon. Please pray for all of this. I do have a backpack with me that holds my passport and my laptop. I will probably have the moto driver wear it on his back, then I will be in the middle, and my friend Fenel will be in the back. This trip of about 3 hours would noramlly cost about maybe $10 U.S. but will now probably cost $50 or more because of so much price gauging.
I just spoke with Maria this morning. She is safe with the girls in Santo Domingo with my brother and sister. She is about to go to the airport and send them off with my brother and sister. then, she will take the bus back down to Santiago and hop the aid plane back into Jacmel later this afternoon.
Just another crazy day in the Whittaker family in post earthquake Haiti. Please pray that we will both be reunited later today.