A Haitian on Haiti: Editor Gary Pierre Pierre speaks on the plight of his nation
Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.
"The dead bodies lying in the street were really jarring. The smell of the dead bodies was putrid. They were piled up everywhere. The government did what they thought was best when they did the mass burials. This was a natural disaster of biblical proportions."
Gary Pierre Pierre wears a number of hats as a noted journalist and publisher of the Brooklyn-based Haitian Times.
Striving to maintain subjective objectivity, a month ago the Haitian-born host of CUNY TV's "Independent Sources" flew down to both assess the damage in the wake of the horrific 7.0 earthquake and get his family to safety.
Writing articles on the ground for numerous news organizations, including the Amsterdam News, and recording his television show did nothing to distract him from his primary concern.
"I'm trying to get down there again," he said, "but it is difficult because there are no commercial flights available, and the aid flights are pretty booked."
His last trip had him flying to the Dominican Republic, Haiti's Hispaniola neighbor, and then driving through the island to Port-au-Prince.
The gory sights he saw stay in his mind's eye, he said
"It was mind-blowing," he told the Amsterdam News. "It was unimaginable. Once you got around the initial shock, you tried to get down and chronicle peoples' lives and what happened. I found my family; I got them to DR and most are in New York."
Pierre Pierre said that he has covered dozens and dozens of stories that involved human tragedy, but nothing such as the earthquake in Haiti, and nothing in which he felt so much a part of the story.
"There was the kind of devastation that we've never seen before in our lives--it resembled WW I," he said quietly.
In the CUNY TV green room, this reporter asked Pierre Pierre and Radio Soleil's Rico Dupuy how they were both doing.
Both said that they felt strange answering that question.
"My family is okay, but I lost so many friends, so I can't really say I'm alright," said Dupuy.
Pierre Pierre nodded slowly.
Do you feel a sort of survivor's guilt? the AmNews asked.
"Yes," the two men responded.
"I never thought of it like that, but yes, yes, I do," added Pierre Pierre.
Reflecting on his initial visit to his ravaged country of birth, later he noted, "My job first and foremost was to report the story, and then to move the debate so as to understand the depth of the devastation and move to action, and begin the hard work of rebuilding Haiti.
"It begins with a discussion, 'Where do you go?' and 'What do you do?'"
There is a quiet sadness about Pierre Pierre as he tells the paper about his experience returning home. "You don't ever switch off. It is just part of what I had to do. My home was destroyed. I still feel pain. I was there. I had to sleep in the yard with everyone else; I had to eat what everyone was eating. I was living what the people were living. I was there with the people. This thing affected everyone," he said.