29 August 2011

Running towards the storm

I have a new job. I'm scheduling all the planes for MAF Haiti. It's taken some getting used to, but I'm finally starting to get the hang of it and really enjoy it. (Don't tell the guy I replaced, or I might become permanent.)

Last week, I'd been e-mailing back and forth with Medical Teams International (Shameless hometown organization shout out! I remember back when they were NW Medical Teams.) about two paralyzed patients who needed to get home. They've been getting treatment here in PAP, but were both originally from northern Haiti. We'd worked out a flight that was about an hour and a half long to two different locations, Cap Haitian and Port-de-Paix. Collectively, they saved at least ten hours of driving. It felt really good to put them in that plane.

We'd made the manifest, filed the flight plan, tied down the baggage, loaded in one patient and were about to load the second one, when the guy from MTI stopped me. He covered the mouthpiece of his phone. "There's a problem," he said softly. Uh-oh. I know I have an official-looking clipboard, but I'm the new guy. No problems, please.

Apparently, somehow, another passenger had found out we were going to Port-de-Paix and wanted to get a seat. MTI wanted to bump the paramedic and put this guy on instead.

"Is he here?" I asked. "If he's not here, he can't go." He was here. Ready, waiting. Hopeful. I weighed him up and rushed him out, since the plane was already late leaving. He was over his weight allowance, so he gave his cheese to a pastor. (I'm not sure if that will make sense to you, but if you lived here, you'd know just what I mean.) As we're hurrying across the wide, open cement plain of the airport, he says to me: "You have no idea what a blessing this is. My wife had to go through the last hurricane by herself. This is great!"

And that's when it hit it me: this guy is running into Hurricane Irene. He's running towards the storm. He lived through Hurricanes Gustav, Hannah, and Ike--he knows what he's getting into. And he's still hurrying home...for his wife.

Oh, for a love that truly knows what "selfless" means.

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