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January 13th, 2010
08:35 AM ET

Dear President Obama #359: Hard days for Haiti

Reporter's Note: President Obama has pledged the United States’ support for Haiti following the devastating earthquake there; the subject of my daily letter to the White House.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/WORLD/americas/01/12/haiti.earthquake/smlvid.durantaye.irpt.jpg width=300 height=169]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

My producer and I told our New York folks that we are ready, willing and able to go to Haiti to assist with the coverage. So far, we are not needed, and that’s fine. While I still get excited about covering disasters, I have changed since my younger days.

Back then, the experience of going to some place that had descended into chaos was so exhilarating, and the challenge was so daunting, that I had precious little time to think about the people who were caught in the middle. I was certainly sympathetic, but so many other emotions were competing for space, I simply could not afford to get too caught up in my feelings. And I’ve had a great many adventures along the way: Trekking through war torn lands; visiting places where catastrophes had destroyed a generation of work (and sometimes the generation itself;) wading through floods; dodging wildfires; bracing against blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes; sleeping in an abandoned school while the rats ran over the floor and the enemy snipers watched for any movement we might make in the night.

But here is the change: While I can still grit my teeth and present a stoic face to the outside, the private toll of witnessing such horrors grows with each year, and my private sadness over them has grown deeper. I have become skilled enough at the job that it doesn’t demand my undivided concentration, and that has given me more time to ponder the grave unfairness of life at times, and I must say that is on my mind tonight.

Why are some of us so lucky as to be born into wealthy, educated countries, where opportunities abound and troubles are comparatively few? And why are others (no less in my God’s eyes than we) born into troubled places where poverty, disease, violence, and natural disasters seem to rain down from the sky?

We don’t know how many people have perished in Haiti, and we won’t for awhile. But this I do know: A lot of people there are going to need a lot of help, and probably for a long time. And I think it is part of the very nature of being American, that we should care for them, pray for them, and help them all we can for as long as we can; because as I write this, I am looking through the DC night at a beautiful city, untouched by such ravages; while only a short plane ride away, the night is full of loss and suffering in a land that has known too much of both.

Good luck in your efforts to help, and your calls to rally us all to the cause.

Regards,

Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Guy Jean

    Anderson, Be safe down there, We appreciate you going there to report live.

    January 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  2. Doudou

    Hello AC,

    My sister is one of the mayor of P-au-P and her name is Nadege. I was wondering if you could try to get some info on her and her family. This is a devastating day in the lives of Haitians all acrross the globe. We know there will be life casualties, we can simply hope and pray that it's minimal.

    January 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  3. askcherlock

    It is heart-breaking that the Haitians are suffering yet again. This is where Americans can show their heart and reach out to help. We don't need action just by our government, but through our hearts as a people who, despite rumors to the contrary, are not such 'ugly Americans.' This is a time to set politics aside and come to the aid of an impoverished country. Who knows, one day this could happen in California.

    January 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  4. Alex Gonzalez

    i'v ben watching cnn since the earthquack happend. im sorry for everyones losses...my heart gose to u all in haiti my prayers go out to you all.

    January 13, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  5. Jimmy Pratt

    I am appalled that we even have to voice anything like going to help those who in Haiti that have been deastted by an earthquake. As a matter of fact we should have a national policy/mandate to reach out to others in our world that are victimizd by any disaster natural or manmade. I keep hearing that we are the last man standing in the category of super powers If we have all this power? Why don;t we use it to help others. We have a military force greater then man has ever seen. Make it a mandate for our large and powerful military to reach out anywhere in the world , without strings ,help others that are downtrodden by nature or man. Who says we have to use the military to project our power abroad, Why don't we use our power to make this world a peaeful and loving place. There is a saying. Don't lead, I may not follow. Don't follow, I may not lead Walk beside me and be my friend. Let us say to the world, Come walk beside us and we can be friends in peace.

    January 13, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  6. Dee

    I don't know why some people are afflicted so much with awful attrocities... It is a question I have pondered upon often – & in a very angry way sometimes, like a lot of people before me I suppose. The best answer I have come up with, is that the human being is a fundamentally good person. It is the duty of any decent person to care for people who are less fortunate – a compulsion even. It is a completly selfless thing, meriting no rewards, just a goodness that is a wonderful part of our human nature.

    Another thing I do know for definite, is that the power of the human spirit is incredibly strong. Sometimes you see people who have been through the most most terrible things, who have the most amazing spirit & character as a result. These people humble & inspire those of us who grumble about the most mundane of things. I also think that adversity rounds a person, making a person more grateful in the long run – a better human being even. The knowledge they gain through their experiences & the healing process involved, is pretty much pricless in the future, when they meet other people who are newely affected in the same ways. It's easy to forget that sometimes is all.

    Haiti was in my mind recently. This country doesn't get the same kind of exposure as Cuba for example. I think this could be a great opportunity for the decent human beings out there, to rebuild this impoverished country, the right way. It is the duty of the media to bring these issues to the forefront of our minds, because with all our mundane problems, it's easy to forget about those who need our thoughts & actions the most.

    God bless 🙂

    January 13, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  7. Lisa

    Broken hearted. Must pray.

    January 13, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  8. Liz

    Tom- Your letter reflects my feelings all too well. For me, when I was younger, I would tell myself it's not as bad for them as it would be for me. Or they expect things like this to happen so it's not so bad.

    These thoughts weren't limited to victims in third world countries. Even here in my own country (I live outside Chicago) I would see a family mourning the loss of a family member to gun violence. And
    God forgive me, I'd think they must be prepared for this type of thing, it happens all the time.

    From the safety of my middle class suburban home I was able to convince myself of a lot of things. It made it easier to carry on my own life if I believed a mother in the housing projects grief was a little bit less than mine would be. A starving child in Haiti would feel a little less pain than my child would feel.

    I don't like admitting these things. It absolutely scares the hell out of me when I think about the anguish that every single human being in Haiti is being put through. There are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, who from this day on, will forever have a gaping hole in their heart where their loved one used to be. But there won't be any videos of funerals or protests on injustice. They have worry about finding the rest of their families. They don't have a place to rest or water to drink. Katrina showed the world how very vulnerable we all are.

    My prayers go out to all the victims they will need our help for many years to come.

    January 13, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  9. Patrice F.

    Beautiful letter Tom. Thank you. As someone who currently has a very heavy heart with among other things worry about my mother at this very moment, your words here are profound and touches at the very heart of this crisis.

    ((please note– with corrected email address...)

    January 13, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  10. Tim Gibson

    A native of Florida, my memory recalls the "boat people" and why they would risk life for life. This human disaster shakes throughout the world on the most basic level of humanity, compassion.

    The Presidental Palace has fallen forward on its birthplace, a birthplace we cannot explain completely by science and must leave up to other powers and eyes. Yet in acceptance of but for the grace there goes I, we must reach out into this huamn disaster with all the power we ourselves as a nation can provide, that is what makes us human, and that is what makes us Free.

    January 13, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  11. Lori

    The events in Haiti make our troubles seem so insignificant.

    January 13, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  12. Gary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

    I wonder myself why these things happen but they are tectonic plates moving.

    it's horrendous.

    Why are some of us so lucky as to be born into wealthy, educated countries, where opportunities abound and troubles are comparatively few? And why are others (no less in my God’s eyes than we) born into troubled places where poverty, disease, violence, and natural disasters seem to rain down from the sky?

    January 13, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  13. dp

    We in America are not perfect...however we are the most compassionate and giving country, I'm sure there will be much aid and help for Haiti. Let's see how helpful the DR will be...
    God allows things to happen, "it's up to us the human beings to make a difference...life is about choices."
    God Bless all those affected by this Earthquake, they will be in my prayers.

    January 13, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  14. John

    Although Haiti may not be the U.S. The people like many other nationalities have impacted the States in many positive ways. We must come together as a humanity. Our brother and sisters need our help and under God we shall be there for them.

    January 13, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  15. Adelaide

    Thank you Mr. Foreman! The people of Haiti sure need all the help they can get!

    January 13, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  16. Kim Crouch

    Tom, a touch blog. I 100% agree. There are few times in our lives where the outcome of an event has the potential to affect us all. 9/11, the world tsunami and now this crisis are such examples. I hope not only will our president show the world how we lead but also the American people. We have our own concerns right now: job losses, home foreclosures, etc. but this is a reminder that we still remain blessed. For the most part, we have a safety net. It's sad to hear about the huge loss of life and that they don't even have ambulances. It's time we recognize our role as human beings with a collective fate. Thanks for this blog.

    January 13, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  17. MIRLENE DUPERVIL

    Thank you CNN for keeping us updated about the mass devastation that is taking place back home in Haiti. My stomach feels like knots each time I see the pictures being broadcast. My heart is breaking not knowing if my families are ok. I'm only praying God, trying to be strong, and hoping that my brother is ok since I'm unable to make contact with them.

    January 13, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  18. Rachel

    My brother is a photogropher and was on assignment in Haiti with New Missions. He was thorwn about 20 ft but is doing well. If you need photos I am sure his camera is full!

    January 13, 2010 at 8:52 am |