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21 Machetes September 2010 My cell phone rings. “Where are you?” “On the Silver Line; I’ll be at the airport in twenty minutes.” “Get here as fast as you can, we’re in Terminal C. The reporter is already here.” Len hangs up. The word reporter echoes in my ear. I stare at my phone, wishing it would explain more. Terminal C is Logan Airport’s futuristic remnant of the 1960s with a cavernous roof that swoops in a dramatic curve over a sea of check-in counters. It is cousin to Eero Saarinen’s famous TWA Terminal in New York. Although Terminal C has been expanded many times to accommodate the long concourses and repetitive departing gates that define contemporary airports, it still has a center, a heart. Len and Bernie are easy to find in the middle of the huge space, wearing “Be Like Brit” T-shirts and standing alongside a reporter with a mic and a cameraman. “Here, put this on,” Len says, tossing a T-shirt at me. I scan the crowd. I will look ridiculous if I slip it over my button-down oxford. I shrug, remove my shirt and undershirt, tuck them in my carry-on, and pull the T-shirt over my head. I sidle up to Bernie and focus on the reporter, ignoring the burn of hundreds of eyes that watched me undress. The reporter tosses me a few questions, though I can tell from his flat delivery I’m destined for the cutting-room floor. Len is the story. Len would say Brit’s the story, of course, but that’s not really true. It’s Len’s lovable, if unattractive, mug that plucks at the bulldog strings of our hearts. “We are going to Haiti to build an orphanage out of the destruction. We are going to honor our 22 Architecture by Moonlight daughter, Brit. We are going to help the millions of people who suffered in the earthquake.” Len’s anime eyes glisten; he wraps his arm around Bernie and pulls him close. “My son, Bernie, here is committed to preserving his sister’s memory.” I watch the man. I listen. He’s not profound or even all that articulate. But he sure is good. The interview is a wrap. Len and Bernie have already checked their luggage. They give me a pair of hockey bags to check, stuffed with T-shirts, lollipops, and medicine. The custom for missionaries flying to Haiti is to carry on personal items and check supplies. I wonder what other countries do so much importing via duffle. My own carry-on is a purple nylon number with a shoulder strap. I’ve learned that rolling suitcases are worthless in Haiti. The rollies’ wheels break on the bumpy pavement at Port-au-Prince airport, which we refer to by its PAP code. Besides, I need two free hands to drag my hockey bags. It’s easier to have additional weight hanging from my shoulder, and if it happens to be bright purple, so much less the chance of its getting lost. I hand the agent my passport; she weighs the bags, tags them, hands me my boarding pass, and then tosses me a wink. “You were looking pretty good there with your shirt off.” I am embarrassed and pleased. It’s been years since I turned a woman’s head. Traveling to Haiti with Len Gengel is unlike going with other Samaritans because Len interprets the guiding dictum—avoid Port-au-Prince after dark—differently than anyone else. The usual strategy is to rise at 3:30 a.m., catch the first flight to Miami, arrive PAP early afternoon, and head straight for Grand Goave. But Len leaves Boston at 2 p.m., flies to Fort Lauderdale, enjoys dinner, stays overnight in a hotel, and then takes the next morning’s flight to Haiti. He arrives in Grand Goave before noon. Len’s connections yield creature comforts every step of the way. A black Escalade awaits us at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Norberto Cintron, Command Engineer for United States Southern Command , a dashing army colonel in fatigues and a crisp hat, takes our carry-ons and opens our doors before gliding us through airport traffic in the cushioned comfort that only Cadillac can afford. Colonel Cintron is the kind of soldier who gives the army a good name. He is articulate and considerate, a great storyteller and a good listener, and he does work...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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