tampabay.com: know it now
Audio Report:
Report back from the front lines of the disaster in Haiti
St. Petersburg Times editor Bill Duryea talks with reporter Meg Laughlin who has been reporting from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. A seasoned international reporter, Laughlin says she has "never seen anything in comparison to the magnitude of this horror."
Play audio:

[Times audio: Catriona Stuart]
You will need the free iTunes player, QuickTime or other mp3 player to hear the audio.

Full transcript:

Talking to Meg Laughlin who is reporting for the Times in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Meg, where did you spend the day today?

I'm in a bordertown. It's Jimani, Dominican Republic. It's where many of the badly injured Haitians are being brought right on the border of Haiti. I spent the day at the public hospital in this town where Haitians are coming in in truck beds and in police cars. Today a tap tap drove up with wounded, that's the colorful haitian bus that had come from Port-au-Prince with wounded. I spent the day in the hospital.

What did you see in the hospital?

Mostly in the hospital you see people who have lost limbs. A huge number of people have had their arms and legs crushed. Mostly legs mostly from Petionville, an elite suburb sort of up above Port-au-Prince going up into the hills. And the people have been brought in and most of them who have amputations have sepsis; they have infections and they have to cut off their limbs.

Are these people who could have been treated without amputation if they had gotten medical care more quickly?

Definitely and the doctors shake their heads. Still as many surgeries that they have done they're still not used to what is happening. Children, young girls and young boys, people of all ages come in with their legs black from infections and they have to cut their legs off and their arms off.

What has affected you most profoundly during your reporting?

I spent time yesterday with a woman in her thirties and they had just taken her leg off and she looked up at me and she had this nub wrapped with gauze and she said "Will I still be pretty? Will I be pretty?" and it just so broke my heart but that wasn't the worst of it. I went in today when they were telling her that they were going to be taking her other leg off and that she had nothing to say, she was in a daze. She couldn't talk, couldn't handle it and then you'd hear the children, little cute, cute, kids screaming in pain. There was a five-year-old screaming in the hospital and she's screaming "Oh Lord, Oh Lord, Oh Lord, help me" now who at five-years-old screams that?

You've been to Haiti before haven't you?

Yes, I have been a number of times. It's been about eight years since I've been. I started coming down here in January of 87. I came a lot between 2002 and 87.

So much has changed because of the earthquake but is anything still seem the same to you?

Yes, very much. You can be in Port-au-Prince and go for blocks and it's this scene of women are cooking on thei charcoal fires with those huge aluminium bowls. Men are stripping cane. People have their Dan Marino t-shirts on still. You get this feeling of the bustle and then you see a body on the street, you see a crushed building, you get that acrid smell of death. You see a sign that says help. "Help, help, please we need help" in French, English, Spanish. So you still get this feeling that on some very poor basic level it's working because of the hustle and the bustle and then you see something that's so tragic you're brought to the moment.

Does any of what seems familiar make you optimistic about the future of Haiti?

I have to say having spent the day in a hospital of people who had lost their limbs, who are blind, knowing how difficult Port-au-Prince is I'm not feeling very optimistic right now and yet there is that resiliant spirit, that determination, that ingenuity that is so Haitian and I guess that would be the only thing.

I know that you've covered wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, compare what you're seeing in Haiti to those experiences.

What I most thought about today was because I was with the 212 out in the desert of Iraq and they would bring in wounded soldiers, wounded Iraqis, wounded Iraqi soldiers. One day they brought in decapitated children and that was pretty tough but there's something about the screaming. There's something about these people who are living and so many of them are dying and the vast numbers and you see their eyes, of all ages and I've never seen anything in comparison to the magnitude of this horror.

Kind of overwhelming?

Yeah, it's overwhelming. You know I went in for about an hour and I was pretty cool and it just everybody there, the doctors, the nurses, it gets to all of them. Everybody is working 18 hour days. The nurses, everybody's pretty exhausted and it doesn't stop. People keep bringing them in.