Commercial flights to Haiti resume, reconnecting families

Trenton Daniel and Jacqueline Charles, writing for the Miami Herald, report on the resumption of commercial flights to Haiti, as hundreds of Haitian-Americans return to mourn relatives and witness the devastation caused by the January 12 earthquake. Here are some excerpts, with a link to the full article below.

In Miami, the pilot waved a tiny red-and-blue Haitian flag out the window before takeoff. In Fort Lauderdale, an airline representative at the gate asked for a moment of silence in memory of the hundreds of thousands dead. And in Port-au-Prince, a near speechless Marie Ange Levasseur dropped to her knees, wailing in grief.

As the first commercial flights returned to this quake-battered nation Friday, so too did hundreds of grief-stricken Haitian Americans like Levasseur, a Miramar resident and executive director of student affairs at Barry University.

. . .

For many of the returning Haitians, there was at first a sense of normalcy while they walked through the jetway, then down the escalator, where the sounds of musicians greeted passengers. But then passengers were whisked onto two waiting American Eagle buses and driven across the tarmac to an improvised immigration check-in where American Airlines’ former cargo operation used to be. Outside the red gate, scores of relatives and friends awaited. Shortly after hugging Francois’ sister, Levasseur jumped into a waiting Toyota Land Cruiser to begin her journey.

Ten minutes later, Levasseur stood in front of her cousin’s house, now a pile of rubble. She dropped to her knees. “I’m here but you’re not here!” she wailed in Creole, her eyes concealed by oversized sunglasses. “I came to see you but you’re not here anymore.”  The white home was no more, a heap of concrete and rebar, a wall of tile from Francois’ bathroom protruding from the rubble.

. . .

Trying to put her grief into words, Levasseur said: “I’m grieving for the country. I’m grieving for my cousin. I’m long overdue, but I’m here.”

. . .

American, which stopped flights to Port-au-Prince the day of the quake, is scheduled to fly twice a day from Miami and once from Fort Lauderdale, and four times a week from New York City. All flights Friday were filled to capacity, the airline said. Air Canada and Air France will soon resume flights as well in the coming weeks. Passengers aboard the Fort Lauderdale flight Friday said they appreciated the effort by American. As the flight approached the landing strip in Port-au-Prince, many stretched their necks to get a glimpse of the destruction from the window. Absent was the thunder of applause, so common on many Haiti-bound flights. As in other commercial flights Friday, many of the passengers were Haitian, along with a few missionaries and relief workers.

For the full article go to http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/story/1490194.html

Photo: Vick Ulysse for the Miami Herald

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