Photo: Emily Good
When Bob Corbett
woke up at 4 a.m. Wednesday he had no clue what kind of day was ahead of him.
The St. Louis native and retired Webster University professor operates a Haiti email discussion list with thousands of subscribers, and at one point, owned the largest private collection of books and articles
on Haiti. He has also visited the French-speaking island nation more than 50 times since 1982.
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday made his discussion list a clearinghouse for those seeking information about family and friends in the country.
"It's been a wild day," Corbett recalled yesterday afternoon in his Dogtown
home. "I've sent out more than 220 emails today and have received over 300."
Corbett said that he is aware of two St. Louisans who were in Haiti at
the time of the earthquake. One of them, Dee Leahy
, runs People to People
a local charity organization that aids impoverished children
in Haiti. Leahy called her husband to tell him that she was uninjured,
says Corbett, but that the house where the children were in was destroyed. Miraculously, everyone everyone escaped alive.
, a St. Louis native who has lived in Haiti since 1990,
is still missing along with a scholar from the University of Iowa, says
The pair were supposed to spend a night in the area around the
epicenter of the earthquake.
Corbett says Geartner, who worked as a pest exterminator when he lived in St. Louis, went along
on a couple of his Haiti trips in the late '80s before deciding to move to the Caribbean country permanently in 1990.
Over the years, Geartner became known around Haiti as "Doctor Phillipe,"
says Corbett, for performing first-aid procedures on
Haitians with no access to health care.
For now, all Corbett can do is stay glued to his computer, eagerly
awaiting news from friends and colleagues.
Photo: Emily Good
Corbett on Tuesday scanning emails from people in Haiti.
"It's crazy. Nobody knows the full picture. Everybody is locked into a
certain space because they can't move around," says Corbett.
Corbett's email inbox been churning with more incoming messages from people in the worst-hit areas.
In an email sent around 10:30 a.m. yesterday, a College of William & Mary
student provides Corbett with his personal observations of the chaos in
FoodWire: Pi Donating Portion of Proceeds to Haiti Relief Efforts TodaySt. Louis Pediatrician Patricia Wolff Heading Out to Help In HaitiLocal Benefit Concerts for Haiti In the Works
this is landon yarrington - i'm at the UN base in PAP, don't have
everything is a mess, and the term is "tout ayiti kraze!"
was in delmas when
the quake hit, returned to the friends i was
staying at, and found the house
completely leveled. everyone is
thankfully safe. i tried rounding up injured
ppl into one spot, an
open space on delmas 17, ruelle verna.
when i left to
find UN last night, more than 200 ppl had gathered, and
the message kept
spreading to round everyone hurt into one safe
location. a medical student
named samuel did what he could. many
people died. digi-cel towers are down,
but voila seems to work, or did
work last night.
the palais national is in
shambles, and a haitian at the gate told me
the cathedrtal fell too, but
don't know if it's true. the haitian
security forces guarding the UN gates
have not been allowed to leave
and see if their families are alright - the
whole UN base is now on
there was a small tremor this morning, and
i'm praying it's still
the US sent coast guard airplane to do recon all over
the city, and four
generals from the DR have arrived. the UN base here
has set up a small
triage area, which i'm helping translate for them.
most of the haitians
they've let in seem to know english well
the UN base is supposedly currently out of water and
rations, and the police
forces which are stationed here, along with the
rest of the UN foreign
staff, mostly europeans, sit and smoke
cigarettes and suck their teeth at
the fact that the Caribbean Market
and hotel montana have completely been
domolished, nevermind the
singing, crying, and praying haitians outside.
there was a large meeting supposedly at the hotel christophe
a chinese delegation and top members of the minustah,
who have all perished
when the hotel collapsed. don't know what's next,
but an american police
officer has said that USAID and relief groups
have begun rolling in. i will try to check back in later, no promises,
because as of last night,
the CO of each UN base had to drive to the
other to talk since their
communications were down. UN communication