Tag Archives: Jillian

R.I.P. Lulu

One of the thousands of casualties of the earthquake was our kitten Lulu.  While it may seem insignificant compared to the human suffering that is occurring now in Haiti, Lulu was a source of solace for Jillian before I moved down, and our first pet.

She was an amazing kitten, only 5 months old, she loved to snuggle and love you, but then moments later playfully attack your leg and leave scratch marks that would remain for days.  She loved to sleep on Jillian’s laptop, and head butt you if you weren’t giving her any attention.  She loved playing with ping pong balls and pen caps, but most of all she loved to sleep in the craziest positions (and always on my side of the bed)…

On Flickr this picture was uploaded as “Day 1” just before I left to travel north before the quake.  It was supposed to be the first of years of pictures that we took of our little Princess Petunia sleeping (as I called her and Jillian hated it).  Jillian had even taken dozens of pictures of her sleeping in weird positions before I moved down which were slated to be a blog post when I got back from my trip. That camera was lost with everything else.

Every time I would talk to Jillian on the phone before I moved down to Haiti Jillian would always ask, “Guess what Lulu’s doing?”  and the answer was ALWAYS, “She’s sleeping!”  Even though I only knew her for about a week total, I miss her so much.  I don’t know what it is, I have never had such a connection with an animal.  Maybe it’s because she meant so much to Jillian, but I am crying while I write this.

After we got Jillian and Chuck out of the rubble, Jillian asked me to look for her.  She had heard her crying and digging while they were trapped.  I wanted so badly to find her for Jillian, to be able to hand Lulu to her and say everything was OK.  It would prove that there was hope, that there was life.  I made the kissing noise that she would come to all around the rubble of the house hoping to hear something, a meow, anything.  But there was nothing.  I walked back to Jillian and she looked at me with hope, “Did you find her?!” and I had to tell her “no”.  It was heartbreaking on so many levels.

But maybe this will help me to understand a little of what Jillian is going through.  I was able to connect to Lulu through Jillian even when I wasn’t there.  I understand that lost, it rips me apart in ways I can’t explain.  But for Jillian, she had connections with so much more than just this one cat.  It was with the country, with it’s people, a connection I had yet to truly make.

I can’t imagine the sorrow that pulses through Jillian during this time, it must be so hard for her.  I wish that I could understand it, but at the same time it might be a blessing that I can support her through it.  The detachment can help in that way.  If we were both messes it would be hard for us to use each other to make it through.  Maybe?

The loss of Lulu will resonate for a long time, even for the visitors to the mission house that she would terrorized with random attacks to the legs.  And now we know that she is doing the thing that she loved the very most…she’s sleeping.  I miss you Lulu.

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What’s in a Name

It never occurred to me that the name of this blog would ever be anything more than a joke.  My life was pretty low key: Jillian had left for Haiti, I was working a pretty exciting job, but you could never define my situation as dire.  So when people would ask why it was called “This is an Emergency”, I would explain that it was a spur of the moment thing, and was meant to be slightly ironic.  I mean, I write posts about my brother’s soccer games and live shots with Senators.

Well, THIS is an emergency.  There is no other way to explain it.  And now the name of this blog seems to fit my life, and the situation in Haiti, in a way that I never really intended.

There are few times when a single event can define your purpose in life, and this is one of those times.  The earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010 will be an event that will define what Jillian and I do forever.  Jillian was trapped under the rubble of our house for 10 hours, I was 100 miles north of Port-au-Prince and 6 hours away.  She felt that she was going to die, I felt that I was going to lose her, therefore losing everything.  We pulled Jillian from the rubble alive, and I am the luckiest man alive.  There were so many that were not as lucky as us.

I’m going to try to dissect my feelings here and describe what happened.  It is all so vivid and yet a blur at the same time.  While Jillian and I have all the pieces to the puzzle, it’s going to take time to put them together.  We have done this puzzle before, and we know where the pieces go, it’s just that some of those pieces are here in the States, and the others have been left in Haiti.  While Jillian has healing to do here, I think there is some truth that it won’t be complete until we return.

I don’t know if the name “This is an Emergency” will remain, it almost sounds like a cliche now.  We will see.

If anyone reads this and feels the urge to donate towards the cause, Jillian and I have started a non-profit in an effort to raise funds to rebuild Haitians homes after the dust has settle and the aid agencies leave, as they surely will.  It’s called Haitian Emergency Rebuilding Operation (H.E.R.O).

Back in Business

Hahaha, Hi!

So I’ve been MIA for the last week or two and I apologize.  It’s been a pretty draining couple of weeks, both mentally and physically, and when I would go to write a post or process pictures I would just fall asleep.  I’ve been yelled at over and over again for taking naps that start after 7pm (they seem like a good idea at the time).

But I swear I am not depressed (as my Mom thought) or dead (no one thought that), it’s just been a busy time.  And now that my imminent departure is quickly approaching, I am trying to tie up loose ends. 

I had big ideas for a post on November 19th because a month from that day Jillian would be returning to the United States for Christmas.  When that passed I had HUGE plans for a post on December 2nd because a month from that day Jillian and I will be on a plane on our way to Haiti.  But they all passed, and now I have no record of those dates ever happening, so I have now forgotten them all.

But this all began with the White House Crashers, and as the old Chinese proverb said, “The White House Crashers ruin everything.”  Last week started with a call on Sunday night asking if I could be out in front of their house the next morning.  The idea was to have a shot live between 6-9am in case they came out to talk.  That meant leaving for work at 4am.  I don’t hate many people, but the crashers are creeping up to the top of the list.

That’s their house, and that’s their limo, and that’s our camera pointed at their vacant house and empty limo.  One producer in NY asked over the phone why, if they had so much money, they weren’t spending any of it on landscaping?  Good question.  But there we were giving them exactly what they wanted, more attention.

The next day I was the pool producer for an interview with Vice President Biden.  What that means is that I arranged the logistics for all the major networks to interview Biden with our camera.  What that also means is that I had to leave for work this time at 3:30am.  We then turned a library at the Naval Observatory grounds from THIS:

TO THIS:

Other than one of Biden’s top aides farting loudly during one of the interviews, the morning went really well.  And no, there is nothing I can do to make Biden not look like a California Raisin (…Andy). 

Thursday meant a live shot with Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I walked into the Pentagon and met two women who both told me my Father had hired them.  “Then why aren’t you giving me more interviews!” I wanted to scream at them.  “You owe me this!” .  If only I could say that my Dad could fire them too.

At the end of that day my Dad, Tammy, and I jumped on a plane for Jacksonville, FL to celebrate my Dad’s 50th by hitting some golf balls into the water at TPC Sawgrass.   It was a great cap to a crazy week that I’ll post on later. 

So there it is, photographic proof that I wasn’t just slacking on the blog just to slack.  Jillian will be here in 11 days, I will be leaving my job in 15 days, and we move down to Haiti together in 25 days.  It’s all coming just as fast as everyone was warning me it would, but for some reason it’s caught me off guard.  Expect more panicked posts soon.

History Repeats Itself

I spoke with my Father-in-law, Clay, just before he left a couple days ago for his trip to Haiti to visit Jillian.  “My bags are already filled with stuff and I haven’t even packed my clothes!” he said.  I asked him to send me pictures and it appears that no one is excluded from Jillian’s stranglehold on visitor’s baggage-space.

This is nothing new

So much stuff!

OMG!

While I have complete and utter sympathy for Jillian’s predicament, how is she going to bring all this stuff back?!  “FULL suitcase, full Large North Face Duffle and a Laptop backpack about to hold 2 laptops! Yeesh!” Clay wrote to me in an email.  I’m getting nervous.

I suppose I should prepare to move down to Haiti with about 1/4 of a bag of my personal belongings.  The rest will, of course, be filled with toys for Lulu.

Miss Petunia

FYI

A couple of people have been asking who this Devon person is that I keep writing about in recent posts about Haiti.  Well, I’m going to answer a few questions for you right now:

On the right is Devon, she’s a Nurse from Connecticut that has moved down to Haiti to do medical work in Jeremie, which is a coastal town west of Port-au-Prince.  She came down with a medical mission that Jillian was running, and is sticking around the mission house until she leaves later this month.  She’s a blast to hang out with, and Jillian, her, and I had a pretty great time just kickin’ it old school (no, I am not cool enough to say that).

In the middle is Mathieu, who is a Haitian friend of one of Jillian’s co-workers.  He was the one who brought us to the cemetary and showed us the voodoo celebrations.  If it weren’t for him we would have had NO idea where to go, and we would probably still be lost in the labyrinth of graves now.  He was really great, and it was nice to have someone with us that we could trust.

On the left is a random woman named Jillian.  We found her walking on the side of the road and picked her up because she was pretty.  While Mathieu and Devon recommended we not pick up a stranger, she turned out to be a really nice person, and apparently she has a really cool husband.  I’m looking forward to meeting him.

I hope this answers all of your questions.

Love, Your Esteemed Author

Gede (Haitian Voodoo Day of the Dead)

Sunday marked one of the biggest celebrations of the year in Haitian culture.  Gede (also spelled Ghede) is the Voodoo celebration of the Day of the Dead which falls on the Catholic All Souls’ Day.

Jillian, Devon, and I went to the national cemetary in Port-Au-Prince with one of Jillian’s co-worker’s friends to check it out.  We were told it was a spectacle, and what we saw lived up to the hype.  (WARNING: some of the photos are a little intense)

Haitians use this holiday to honor their ancestors by bringing food (bread, rice and beans) and drinks (mostly coffee and rum) as an offering to those who have died.  They then light candles and say prayers around their offering.

Voodoo is practiced by pretty much all Haitians, but it is usually mixed with the Catholicism which was brought by the slave-owners that controlled the island of Hispaniola centuries ago.

This chapel was located in the middle of the cemetary.  The service going on here was one of the first things we saw, and it paled in comparison to what was next.

Just outside the door was a little stand with all you could ever need for the voodoo celebration, including voodoo dolls!  I got a voodoo doll of my brother Aiden, and started tickling it immediately.

We snaked through the graves just around the corner from the chapel where the real celebration had already started.  A couple hundred people had gathered around a monument to the Voodoo “Loa” Baron Semedi.

A Loa is likened to a saint or an angel, but is more a liason between the living and the dead, interfering with human affairs if needed.  Gede is actually the name of a specific family of Loa, and Baron Semedi is the head of that family.

What happened next is best described by this article in the San Francisco Chronicle: “The spiritual adepts, the women called mambos and the men called houngans (HONE-gahn), joined by drummers and singers, will pray at a cross rising from a tomb, the symbol of Baron Samedi, summoning the spirits. And then the partying begins.”

Well, before jumping up to the top of the cross, the Houngan above took out some safety pins and stuck them through his cheeks and neck.  Don’t ask me why.  They were just run-of-the-mill safety pins which didn’t appear to be that sharp.  It looked horribly painful.

After jumping up on the cross, he doused himself in white powder to make himself resemble the dead and then started to chant at the people below.

But this guy wasn’t the only one acting possessed.  On the ground there were women who were preparing to do something that we thought was a joke when we had heard about it earlier.

Dressed in all white, when these women became “possessed” they would take habanero peppers and stick them into their genitalia as proof that the spirits had taken over their bodies.  No joke.  The peppers are soaked in a white rum called Clarin, which is supposed to be a favorite of the Gede spirits.

While there were a bunch of people who were taking this to the extreme, a lot of it appeared to be a show for both Haitians and Blancs alike.  It was because it was such a spectacle that I was able to bring my camera into the national cemetery.  Any other day I would be a little nervous to do so.

It took a lot of time to digest what we had seen.  Aside from the craziness of the Voodoo, the paths of the cemetary were lined with the poor who had come for free food that was given as part of the holiday.  The whole experience was something you would see in National Geographic, not through your own eyes (or through a camera).  It was intense.

And while there were those who stuck peppers in their naughty parts, most people went to pray and truly reflect on those who had died.  It was a really powerful thing to witness. (The woman below is holding a bottle with the peppers in it)

Other than Jillian, it’s things like this that make me want to go back as soon as possible.  The culture and the people of Haiti are so interesting that you can’t help but want to learn more.  It’s pretty exciting that I will be covering this full-time when I’m down there, and even if no one in the States is interested in the footage, I’ll have these pictures for myself forever.

Haitian Halloween Masks

One thing that I’m noticing about Haiti is things there can be pretty scary.  On Saturday, Jillian, Devon, and I went to a store that sells Haitian art, and inside we found these super creepy masks.

They were made out of paper mache and smelled kinda bad.  They were also kinda heavy, and visibility was close to zero.  The one I am wearing above cost 10,000 Goudes, which is about 240 bucks.  Haitians use these masks for festivals such as Carnival, which makes me SUPER psyched that I’m going to be there next year with a camera in tow.

Above is Devon.  We took her picture with the mask on in an effort to send it to her parents so they would send money.  “Look at what has happen to her!” we would write, “You must send money now or it will be permanent!!!”  It’s unlikely to work.