Special post script note: I want to sincerely apologize for posting incomplete information about Turkish rescuers in Haiti. After the news program seeing Turks in the rescue effort, I searched online, even at the Hurriyet Turkish newspaper, for information about a Turkish contingent. I found many references to the Armenian group, and since many Armenians live in Turkey, I came to an imperfect conclusion that this was the Turkish contingent. I was unable, unfortunately, to find anything at that time about the Turkish group. I should have been more thorough and clear about that process in the paragraph about it. I have nothing but respect for Turks, who clearly in the last decades have come to the aid of not only their own who have suffered, but to those in other countries as well. In this post I have conveyed a personal story that reminds me that the Haitian tragedy, while massive, is about individual suffering and individual aid.
Here is the Hurriyet article posted 6pm today, about Turkish rescuers and the generous ten tons of goods donated to Haiti. Clearly in 2010 our friends Cemal, Hassan, Dilber and Ali would have something different to say.
"In Turkey, she would die."
We looked over at Cemal (pronounced Jeh-mahl) in the blue TV light. Hassan, Dilber and Ali all nodded in agreement.
"If a child fell into a hole here, no one would try to rescue her. We don't have the technological resources, and besides, we would just consider it her fate."
I don't remember how far the emergency team was into the 58 hours spent rescuing 18-month-old Jessica McClure after she fell 22 feet into a well in 1987. She was just a few years younger than Lesley and Peter. We looked like lemurs in our Istanbul apartment staring at the television news footage of Midland, Texas workers at night under floodlights leaning over her far below, talking to her, passing food and water down the narrow hole. She was still a baby, crying, the only word she said was "Mommy." They drilled a rescue shaft next to the well and dug over to where she was. Even cavers came in to help.* I don't know how many worked on her rescue, I couldn't find the total. I'm guessing dozens, maybe a hundred, or hundreds. The whole community around Midland donated time, equipment, tens of thousands of dollars, food, diesel fuel, and more for the effort of saving one child.
Fast forward 22 years, 3 months. On the news Friday we watched a Turkish rescue team with a Haitian man trying to find his missing wife who was trapped under a broken cement building. They had been tapping, and she had been tapping back. But the last tap they heard was an hour before. The Turkish rescuers and the husband weren't going to leave until they removed all that cement rubble and found her. They knew from experience that it might not be too late, and they had to find out. In India, after the 2004 tsunami, those Turks had rescued a woman - alive - after 7 days. Today is the sixth day since the earthquake hit Haiti.
From what I could find, it seems that the Turks who were sent by air across Africa and the Atlantic to Haiti were 52 Armenians. At least 30 countries have sent rescue and relief teams.
A lot has changed in 22 years. And a lot hasn't.
Haitian boy - Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images
*NOTE: Scanned newspaper image from the Amarillo Daily News found at caver.net, on their page devoted to Jessica's rescue.