Far from the rubble they left behind, Haitian children sometimes ask their Florida teachers if that was a tremor they just felt. Other children pine for parents lost in the Jan. 12 earthquake. Many live with strangers, even if they are family.
The unique and long-term role Florida is destined to play in Haiti's recovery is particularly clear in the public schools, where more than 2,000 young refugees have enrolled since the earthquake. Roughly half are in just three counties — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — that are also home to the nation's largest concentration of Haitian-Americans.
Floridians can be proud of the state government's work in the past month: assistance to more than 7,300 Haitian refugees and hospital admission for more than 630. Earlier this month, with Florida hospitals near capacity, Gov. Charlie Crist and Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon reasonably prodded the federal government to pick up the increasing medical costs.
It is a beginning, but far from the end. Florida's special connection to Haiti requires the state to remain a fierce ally as the world community seeks to rebuild a nation ravaged not just by a 7.0 earthquake but by decades of poverty and corruption.