The Slow-Cooked Sentence

A road trip

Rachael Conlin Levy
A Haitian woman carries rice rations. Courtesy of U.S. Air Force.

In my mind’s eye is a road running through Port-au-Prince that’s freshly graded, smooth with concrete and busy with people, scooters, bikes and cars. It’s 1995. Bill Clinton is in office, Jean Bertrand Aristide is taking back his presidency after a military coup, and I am a young reporter who convinced editor and Air Force to send me to Haiti to write about that road.

The four-lane highway replaced a pot-holed, dirt road and became a symbol of the country’s path to stability. It was built by combat engineers from Las Vegas, where I was a reporter for the Sun. When I climbed on board the C-130 with a couple of blank reporter’s notebooks, my Pentax K1000 and a Trash-80, I had one assignment: Cover the road.

For three days, I snapped, scribbled, showered and slept with the 820th Red Horse in their tent city. Every evening, my military escort drove me through twisty, dirt roads to a hotel where the foreign correspondents hung out so I could use the phone lines to file my stories. Afterward, we’d sit in the hotel bar, drink a beer and I’d catch glimpses of journalism literati like CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Aristide was headed home, Clinton was arriving, the buzz and bustle of that city with its rare, paved road was intoxicating.

I was in heaven.

In the years that followed, I’d catch a bit about Haiti in the news and the road would appear in front of me. Then three weeks ago the city was destroyed in a massive earthquake, and I stared at the pictures and maps trying to affix where the highway was, where the hotel was, where the tent city was.

I didn’t know.

So in my mind the ground shuddered and the road cracked, exposing dirt once again, dirt that absorbed the people’s tears and blood.

Links worth visiting:

The New York Times has an interactive satellite map, showing the city, before and after the January 12th earthquake.

Haitian women are holding up their sky, proving to be reliable and fair at delivering rice rations to 10,000 people every day, according to the World Food Program.’s The Big Picture has gathered an amazing and disturbing set of photos of Port-au-Prince, three weeks later.

A group of authors, photographers, painters, quilters and toymakers are holding an online auction, To Haiti, with love.

One response to “A road trip”

  1. Linda says:

    Rachael,we've been wondering how you were impacted by the devastating earthquake. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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