Haiti: A Personal Perspective

60 Minutes' Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson Reflects on Her Recent Trip to Her Homeland

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Written by 60 Minutes Associate Producer Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson..

When a severe earthquake hit Haiti last Tuesday, there was no question that I had to go. As a journalist, the severity of what was unfolding made it obvious to cover, but as a Haitian-American who'd spent her childhood there, I felt I could be of help.

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Arriving in Haiti last Wednesday afternoon my relief was that we'd made it there without a hitch. I didn't want to prepare myself for what I was going to see on the other side of the airport for the simple reason that I have never covered an earthquake. My first sense of the magnitude of the quake was seeing an injured woman in a wheelchair, her face bloodied and bandaged, waiting to get on a flight out. She'd worked for Citibank, whose building had collapsed.

Haiti's landscape had turned into a sea of crushed buildings. We drove to the Citibank site and on our way there you could just see the shock on people's faces. In a city that didn't have a very strong infrastructure to begin with, this earthquake just made the entire place fall like a house of cards. By now, you've all heard the descriptions of what it looks like:
"Armageddon," "the end of the world," "catastrophic," "unimaginable," "an apocalypse" and the descriptions go on and on.

I was asked to write about my thoughts and feelings because my family is from Haiti and many are still in Haiti and because I know the place well and perhaps because it touched me in a different way than it touched others. While there might be some degree of truth to that, one certainly need not be Haitian to have been affected by this.

The site of people, homeless, walking about with a shopping bag which now equals their entire lives is just gut-wrenching. Seeing children lying alone in a hospital bed makes you understand that they are now in this world, alone. The aged who must've seen so much in this land throughout their lives, now hit with this most likely have no resilience left and really, why would they?

Of course I was also working and in between working I was communicating with my dear, sweet cousin Marise, who lives in Port-au-Prince and was updating me on the whereabouts of our aunts, uncles and cousins. Most of the news was good and some not good at all. It's a lot to take in because like me, she too was helpless, unable to do much.

Driving through Port-au-Prince, all of the buildings that I remembered growing up - simple points of reference - were now piles, I mean piles, of rubble.

How will Haiti overcome this latest blow? Where does one start? It's unnecessary to be "objective" while covering such a tragedy because there's no side to take. Driving through town I was thinking these are just not my people but the world's people, a world that now feels a sense brotherhood towards the people of Haiti.

Three days after the quake we were taken by an American doctor to see a sight I shall never forget. Walking up the street from the Hôpital Général (General Hospital), we turned a corner and in front of us was a part of a city block that has become a morgue. There were easily 200-300 bodies in that area and they were so bloated and decomposed that if you didn't see their sex organs, you couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman.

Crushed babies and children barely on this Earth long enough to learn to walk were now leaving it under such horrific conditions. Seeing a Caterpillar truck scoop these corpses and dropping them like rubble at the back of a dump truck was just too much to stomach.

As upset as I was - along with my team - I had to watch. I witnessed their path to their final resting place which was to be a mass grave. What a horror.

This event was not man-made, so there is no one to blame in this instance, it's no one's fault, but let us never, ever forget the pain and anguish my Haitian brethren are living and will continue to live for years to come.

The lasting and personal thought that I take from my island is: continue to love all of those around you and do it for all those who can no longer love their own.

Written by Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson