Horror in Haiti

January 15, 2010 3:08:57 PM PST
It's not just Mother Nature's horror that we're seeing in Haiti.

It's the horror of poverty. And of the income gap between those who have nothing - and the rest of us.

A 7.0 earthquake is big. But should it have killed tens of thousands? Or hurt many more than that? Should it have left hundreds of thousands homeless?

The Loma Prieta earthquake in October, 1989, in the San Francisco Bay area was also a 7.0. It killed 63 people, injured more than 3,700 and left up to 12,000 people homeless. It was a disaster for California. I was working in San Diego when the quake hit. A couple hours later, I was reporting on homes collapsed, or on the verge of it.

Same magnitude quake as Haiti. Far different outcome.

How to make sure that the next quake - and there will likely be another quake, given the active seismic field underneath Haiti - isn't as destructive. That should be one of the goals of the nation-building that will now commence in Haiti. Should be.

Because if all this humanitarian aid that is finally pouring - slowly but surely - into Haiti goes only to deal with the acute crisis, then a great opportunity will have been missed. And sure as you're reading this, we will be seeing a repeat of this telethon-like appeal for help again if we don't help this country enter the 21st Century.

A friend of mine owns a business in Haiti - or it might be more accurate to say owned a business. Some of his workers have died, his building is damaged, and right now he's not sure what the future holds. But that's not important, he told me this morning. What's important is the welfare of the folks who work for him.

For years his friends have suggested he sell the business. He didn't - because he believed he owed his workers something. The jobs that provided money for their families and dignity for them. The benefits that kept their children healthy. The return of loyalty that he felt from his employees. He's a great guy. And Haiti needs thousands of them to help rebuild.

We're in Haiti again tonight at 11 - our reporters N.J. Burkett and Marcus Solis, bringing you the stories of people trying to survive in a kind of hell.

There are reports of some violence in Haiti, as people, desperate for food and water, resort to desperate measures. Is it looting? I suppose in the dictionary sense it might be. But when people are starving and scorched, and they look for food and water for their families, I just don't think looting is the most accurate description.

I know people will disagree with that. And it's an intellectually honest discussion to be sure. But several of you have written in suggesting something else about the word "looting" - that it is more often applied to a situation involving blacks than whites, and it carries with it some racial overtones. I'd be interested to hear if there's a big difference of opinion out there about this. Email me about this or the Haitian situation - at Bill.S.Ritter@ABC.Com.

And there are amazing relief efforts underway that you can become part of. We've put together ways you can help, at our website. CLICK HERE to be linked to them.

Also at 11, our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer continues his reporting on security at area airports - or perhaps lack of security is a more appropriate term.

The Port Authority's new Perimeter Intrusion Detection System is up - after four years and at least $100 million.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Jeff Smith (in for Lee Goldberg) with the AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.