AC360° Production Assistant
A massive earthquake struck the island of Haiti on January 12, 2010. Less than 24 hours later, I landed in Port-Au-Prince with Anderson Cooper, AC360° Executive Producer Charlie Moore, cameraman Neil Hallsworth, and several other CNN colleagues.
As we drove out of the airport towards the center of town, I remember thinking, “It doesn’t look so bad.” Many of the buildings near the airport seemed to be in good condition; we only saw a few collapsed homes. Less than a mile later, reality hit. We pulled over to the side of the road and saw a child’s body lying on the median. Only a thin sheet afforded this tiny soul some dignity.
Over the course of the next month, CNN reported the full horror of what had happened in Haiti. We also reported on the millions, soon to be billons of dollars in aid that came from people and NGO’s all over the world.
Six months later, we landed in Port-Au-Prince to see how these funds were being used to rebuild Haiti. It soon became clear very little had changed. The streets looked exactly the same – as if the earthquake had struck just hours earlier. Even the Presidential Palace lay in the same crumbled condition.
I let my FlipCam roll as the AC360° team began following the money and reconnecting with survivors we had met back in January. Here’s the backstory of our time there.
Program Note: See the full interview with the three fishermen, who were first on the scene of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, tonight on AC360° at 10 pm ET.
Last week we got an email from Shelly Milam from Milam and Milam law offices in Alabama. She said she had some video and photographs from clients who were out fishing in the Gulf of Mexico the night the Deepwater Horizon exploded.
I met with their attorneys and watched cell phone video the 3 men took that night. They were the first to respond to the scene as they were on a fishing trip and happened to be 17 miles away.
Scott Russell, Mark Mead and Brad Shivers agreed to give us their video and photographs and told us about the night that they say changed their lives forever. They describe a situation where they noticed a fireball in the distance and suddenly heard mayday calls coming in saying people were abandoning the rig.
They started heading to the Deepwater Horizon knowing that people were going to need help. They were there before the Coast Guard and felt intense heat coming from the fire on the rig. They saw people hanging off rafts asking them to go search for people who were missing. They handed them their medical kits and started searching the waters surrounding the rig looking for anyone in the water.
The three men met us and interviewed with Anderson about what they saw that night and the chaos they witnessed when they first arrived.
It's a night they say they'll never forget.
Editor's Note: After Tuesday's show, feedback was overwhelmingly about Haiti. Viewers appreciated Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta going back to Haiti and following up on what is going on there. Many thanks were heard for the segment following the monies that were pledged and the actual given amounts from the different countries and plenty were disgusted to hear about the donated food and other items that are stuck in warehouses or at airports not being allowed to be distributed to those that need it.
Thank you for all the coverage regarding Haiti – I am deeply saddened to see and hear of the delays and its impact on the Haitian People. Please continue your coverage. Hug the children and those who are hurting – they deserve better. God Bless the people of Haiti.
Anderson, I commend you for "keeping them honest." However, as I sit here in the comfort of my living room, with a roof over my head, food in my belly, my children safe in their beds, I find myself yelling at the TV with a mixture of total frustration, disbelief and outrage that food sits in warehouses, equipment stands idle, and promised monies have not been delivered, most shamefully from my country, the United States of America, due to what? I still cannot comprehend what? Petty corruption? Seriously? That's the reason? Or an inability for various factions to coordinate? And you mean to tell me that not one so-called "super power” like my own country, cannot intervene, simply on the basis of basic human compassion? Appalling.
Dear Anderson, What you and Dr. Sanjay are doing is incredibly important. No one else is going to do this. Don't stop. You've made me really respect CNN. Thanks.
The program on Haiti is great. It shows that the government is not doing what it should to help its citizens. No money should be given to line their pockets.
Editor's Note: After Monday's show feedback was primarily about Haiti. Viewers appreciated Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta going back to Haiti and following up on some of the people they got to know in the days and weeks after the earthquake 6 months ago. After hearing of the donated money that has not gotten in to help the people of Haiti, some viewers are asking just how they can help.
Thank you for not forgetting Haiti. Please tell Dr. Gupta to check on the baby with hydrocephalus at J/P HRO (Sean Penn's camp). He needs a VP shunt now!
Can you guys get an update on Monley the little Haitian boy w relatives in Florida?
The story of Jenna. The Haitian orphan. The behavior of the two year old is completely normal. Too much is being read into behavior that is normal two year old toddler. The new mother should perhaps discuss her concerns with her pediatrician. I am sure the doctor will say she is fine.
I love Cooper. I want to yell when he exposes the corruption in Haiti. He and Penn are saints while the rest of us sit at home like poodles. Don't stop; you can never stop digging and scraping for what’s right. CNN must stand behind him in every way. I've gained a lot of respect for CNN as compared with the insanity going on with the other outlets.
Congratulations to you and Dr. Gupta for coming back to observe 6 months after. In your report tonight I kept hearing that even though 6 months after it looks slow, but it is still good and better than other places like Indonesia. Living in Haiti, this is hard to believe it is still progress. We feel stuck with no sense of direction. It seems Haiti has become the center of the business of poverty. We need to see big trucks, loaders, new roads, improvement in infrastructure and hope for the people. Reconstruction entails a new investment environment to spark growth and break the poverty cycle. What is done to attract investment? When will this happen? Another 6 months?
Vlaho Mjehovich has been an oysterman in these Gulf waters for 21 years. His father was one here, as was his grandfather. It's what this family knows and loves.
Photojournalist Gil Delarosa and I went out with Mjehovich today to the waters where he has built his life. He started up his boat and took us out to his oyster beds in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.
As we reached the beds, Mjehovich dropped his large oyster dredge in the water. What he pulled out was depressing.
Nearly every single oyster he pulled up was dead. Killed, he says, by the fresh water diversions from the Mississippi River meant to keep oil from coming into the marsh.
Oysters feed off salt water and can take several years to grow. With all the fresh water pumped into the marsh, oysters are starving, not getting the salt water they need to survive. With each dredge we pulled up, Mjehovich grew more and more angry.
"It's disgusting," Mjehovich said as he looked through piles of oysters searching for a single living one.
"This one is dead, another one dead, I feel sick to my stomach!"
He knows his life is going to change forever. The oysters he once relied on to make a living are dead and won't return for many years. In turn, his business is also dying and he now wonders what he will do next.
Editor's Note: After Tuesday's show feedback was primarily about the oil leak. Viewers continued to thank the team for focusing on the disaster in the Gulf. Many are still just asking when the oil will be stopped. Some viewers feel that the government should be in charge and get it stopped.
When will the leaking well be turned off? When will they have the relief wells finished? The day BP puts the new wells into production is the day the leaking well will be fixed! Not because it will relieve pressure and stop leaking but because they will have active wells and will "never have to pump oil from the current well". Why not turn it off? Well if you LISTEN to the little people in the oil business, you can't turn it off and drill a new well in the area, but if it keeps on leaking you can still drill relief wells that can be used later. You believe what you want but I'll believe the people that no one in authority will let talk. This will never be fixed! It cannot be fixed! The Gulf Coast will never return to normal as our president has said. What we have now is what we will have 20 years from now just like ALASKA
Re: the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – the comments keeps being repeated – the military should be in charge. The fact is there is an enormous conflict of interest there. BP is the contracted largest supplier of fuel to the US in Iraq & Afghanistan. Do you really think they are about to jeopardize those contracts? The fact is the military will not want to handle this – and Obama's hands will be tied.
Let's address the 100 million gallon oil spill in the room. Is it not obvious by now that our government has not and will take on the oil industry. They dictate to the government, not the other way around.
Editor's Note: After Monday's show, feedback was primarily about the oil leak. Viewers continued to thank the team for focusing on the disaster in the Gulf. Viewers have many questions about the skimmers and what is being done with the oil that is being cleaned up. Kudos was heard for the “walk and talk with Jimmy Buffett.”
I want to thank you so much for your good, honest work. My home town is Ft Walton Beach and I am devastated by the potential losses in the Panhandle. You are one of the few that are doing honest, unbiased reporting. I can't understand why the media can film celebrities on a private beach with a telephoto lens and it is okay, yet reporters are banned from 'real news'. What is wrong with this picture?? But once again, thank you and I will continue to watch to see what you have to say.
Thank you for the extensive coverage of the Gulf oil spill. I have questions about happens to the earth or "void" in the earth where the oil has come from? Does it cause the earth to shift? ie. quakes, sinkholes, etc.? I would love to see this subject covered. Thank you, Gulf Coast resident
I appreciate your show so much. Can you please look into where the oil that is being skimmed and the oiled picked up off the beaches...Where is it going? Is this an additional concern to this disaster?
Thanks to Anderson Cooper for not letting the oil spill just go away from the public eye. Since it is old news now, the other "news?" people have pushed the spill story down the list. You are a friend to the people of the gulf coast. Thanks from a Louisiana resident.
Editor's Note: After last night's AC360°, many of you wrote in wanting to know more about what the oil is doing to the Gulf's ecosystem. You also wanted to hear about the nation's unemployment situation, and what the Senate planned to do about it.
I grew up around oil rigs, and this disgusts me. I have been watching this since Day 1 and I feel so bad for the people and wild life of the Gulf. I don’t think most people know what oil feels, smells and looks like. BP has destroyed an entire ecosystem. it will take hundreds of years for the gulf to recover. My sympathies to the 11 families, I lost my father 10 years ago due to safety regulations not being met.
GO CNN and Anderson Cooper! You're doing a great job on the Gulf story. PLEASE, PLEASE stay on it. It's the only way we can make the government and BP accountable. Kudos.
A query: could BP be delaying in order to blame a lot of the oil damage to Hurricane Alex, making BP not liable for some further damage that will inevitably occur?
I love the show and Anderson Cooper. What a friend Louisiana has in Anderson. Thank you so much. You are always there for us.
Just wanted to say that I have been watching the coverage of the oil spill with Anderson, He is very informative on any situation he is reporting on. Keep up the great work! Met him briefly Monday night in the New Orleans airport. As I was heading back to Colorado. He was on the run. What an honor, I am a huge fan. Thank you!
Editor's Note: After Tuesday's show, feedback was primarily about the oil leak. Viewers thanked Anderson for staying on the Oil Disaster in the Gulf and are still giving suggestions on how to stop it. Some are adamant that blowing it up would seal it and ask why this has not been talked about. Viewers are also asking that more be said about the animals that are caught up in the oil as well as the eco system and what the oil is doing to it.
Thanks so much for sharing about saving the whales and sea turtles. I am an avid animal lover and environmentalist. Keep stressing the need to contain that OIL! Save our planet from drilling. Keep sending out the message. Try to get a walk on Washington this summer. I'd come!
I am wondering why the animals that are being retrieved from the oil and cleaned are being re-released back into the wild while the oil continues to gush from that well? Also, every person in this country needs to start speaking out for our neighbors in the gulf. It’s true the gulf marshes and wetlands are the nurseries for many species and when they are destroyed by this man made catastrophe, the animals will never recover. We are witnessing a forced extinction. We should be screaming from every radio and television station in the country!!
Why can't this well be blown up , collapsed and sealed ? The most important thing is for the oil to be stopped! Then an intense worldwide cleanup effort can begin! ...WHY CAN'T THIS WELL BE BLOWN UP!!!
Editor's Note: After Wednesday's show, feedback was primarily about the oil leak. Viewers voiced their thanks that Anderson is still at the gulf; their disgust that it’s taking so long for the oil leak to be stopped; and that the cleanup is taking so long to get fully underway.
Thank you for your devotion and dedication to the oil spill in the Gulf. Without your tenacity, we, the citizens of America, would not well informed of the daily, disastrous debacle of this horrendous event. I'm surprised the administration is continuing to allow your in-depth coverage. Please, if there is any way you could legally encourage people to be John Waynes and just do whatever they can to save the coast, the locals, and the animals and the hell to all the bureaucratic red tape.
Anderson, keep your eye on the lies. Thank you for maintaining a focused beam of reporting on this massive debacle. - The message to the Government is simple: PLUG THE DAMN HOLE, USE EVERY TECH AVAILABLE AND CLEAN UP THE OIL, NOW not LATER, NOW!!!
Thanks Anderson for staying in the Gulf. The South is having a tough time
I wanted to take a moment to thank Anderson Cooper and the entire staff at 360 for the care and concern that you have showed to the people of the Gulf Coast. Of all the news channels and the attention that has been given to our problem, I have to say that Anderson has shown more poise, more kindness, and more genuine concern than any other news anchor on television. Thank you for all you are doing. Please continue to speak on behalf of the people of the Gulf Coast. We love our beaches, our wildlife, and our way of life here, and so many are suffering. Your concern helps ease the pain a bit.