As America continues to mobilize in response to the earthquake that devastated Port-Au-Prince on Tuesday, Guardians have been reporting in from Haiti by air, by sea and by land. Their accounts reveal both the scale of the disaster and the work ahead as disaster and humanitarian responders descend on the tiny Caribbean Island.
The very first American commanders to reach Haiti after the earthquake were Guardians.
Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Fielder was the C-130 pilot that flew the first United States aircraft to survey Port-au-Prince after the earthquake. She and her crew flew over the island in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday morning and recalled how eerily quiet it was, the massive destruction and the desperation on the faces of the people on the ground in an interview to the Washington Post. Her air crew’s reports were invaluable and would help set the stage for future response efforts.
Commander Diane Durham, the commanding officer of the CGC Forward, called in to CNN from the ship as it patrolled off the coast of Haiti. In the phone interview, she shared her perspective as the first on-scene commander for U.S. forces in Haiti. The Forward oversaw operational command and control, initial search and rescue operations and provided emergency assistance with what supplies they had until other assets could arrive. The cutter’s reports on maritime conditions and pier structural integrity allowed other military transport and first responders to plan their relief efforts.
Guardians aboard the CGC Tahoma were among the first American responders to go “boots dry.” Here is what they saw, in their own words, as provided exclusively to Coast Guard Compass.
“Haiti was devastated. I have never seen so many hurting people in one place. Families were destroyed, kids with no more parents, and a lot wounded. It was a huge reality check for me.” – GM3 Ricky Pounders
“We treated over 15-20 people for each medical team member in just three hours. Some of the people needed “trauma center” medical care that was just not possible with the supplies and time allotted to us.” – DC2 Richard Schrewsbury
“The children were very brave. We needed to give out supplies but we didn’t have the man power to give it to them… we made due and helped as many as we could. They were very grateful.” – SK1 Scott Hutton
“As a corpsman, I am trained to stabilize people until they can get to the next highest level of care. I have never had to be the highest level of care someone was likely to see.” – HS1 Larry Berman
“I looked out to find the crowd had already tripled before we even began. We started treating people and every time we looked out the crowd was growing and the injuries were getting worse. I remember looking at one poor child not more than a year old that was having constant seizure after seizure; I turned and asked Doc ‘Are we it? I mean we have nothing we can do for this poor child.’ As we left the mother was still sitting by the front steps rocking her baby singing him a song.” – OSC Truman Watkins
“It was heartbreaking to see the devastation that the Haitian’s have endured. So many people needed medical attention and there just wasn’t enough medical support to help everyone who really needed it. We still have a lot of work to do.” – YN1 Stephanie Winslow
“The first Haitian I saw was a little boy who lost both his parents. The people just want help. Broken legs, missing fingers, compound fractures, head injuries. I hope that we get some more professionals to assist with this catastrophe.” – ETC Paul Frownfelter
As the American response to the Haiti earthquake continues, stay tuned to the Compass as we continue to bring you first hand perspectives as Guardians report in from Haiti.