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Cheerful Haitians Return Home on First Commercial Flight Since Earthquake

Passengers checking in for American Airlines' first commercial flight out of Miami International Airport since the January 12 earthquake
Passengers checking in for American Airlines' first commercial flight out of Miami International Airport since the January 12 earthquake

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  • George Hazy, American Airlines Vice President in Miami

At 4:00 a.m. February 19, American Airlines employees at Miami International Airport arrived at work to find over a hundred people - mostly Haitians - already lined up and eager to check in for the first commercial flight into Port-au-Prince, since the January 12 earthquake.

There was no pushing, shoving or shouting and rather than "doom and gloom" these passengers were cheerful as they eagerly stood in line, ready to check their luggage, collect boarding passes and go through security.

Why would anyone want to travel to Haiti now - considering the enormous amount of human and material devastation the Caribbean nation is facing?

This passenger said he is ready to go back and rebuild his shattered business in Port-au-Prince, 19 Feb. 2010
This passenger said he is ready to go back and rebuild his shattered business in Port-au-Prince, 19 Feb. 2010

"My family is in Haiti, my business is in Haiti," one passenger explained.  He said he goes back and forth between the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince and Miami every two months or so - until the earthquake hit. "Everything I had is shattered but I'm ready to rebuild."

"I feel like I'm ready to return home," another passenger said. "I know there's going to be a lot of emotion when I arrive, but I've been preparing for that for a few days now."

Others, like American mental health care official Amber Gray, from Santa Fe, New Mexico say they are returning to provide badly-needed medical assistance.  Gray said she has been traveling back and forth to Haiti for over a decade, and remembers fondly the Hotel Montana, pulvarized by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

"I love Haiti," she said. "And as corny as it sounds, despite everything that's happened to them, the people are still joyful, resilient and hopeful." 

Employees working behind the American Airlines counter were surprised to arrive at 4:00 am to find hundreds already lined up to check in, 19 Feb. 2010
Employees working behind the American Airlines counter were surprised to arrive at 4:00 am to find hundreds already lined up to check in, 19 Feb. 2010

American Airlines Miami Vice President George Hazy was very pleased that two completely full flights were smoothly dispatched, Friday.

"I feel wonderful! American Airlines is so happy to be going back to Haiti," Hazy said.  He said in addition to the two flights out of Miami this morning, they also had one out of Fort Lauderdale and one out of New York City. 

"We're happy to be back in Port-au-Prince," Hazy added.

On February 20, Air France and Air Canada will begin flights into Port-au-Prince too.

"Better get here early," advised a Haitian man, working as a baggage handler for American Airlines. "We'll have double the amount of passengers we have today."

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