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Haiti earthquake diary: Thoughts on the flight to Miami

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(Read caption) A US Navy helicopter takes off in front of the National Palace after members of the US Army 82nd Airborne, front, landed in Port-au-Prince, Tuesday.

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The day after learning of the tragic 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, I caught an early morning flight from Boston to Miami en route to Port-au-Prince Haiti. I needed to see friends and family in the country I'd grown to love.

On the flight to Miami, I jotted this in my journal:

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"It makes the perfect metaphor: the collapse of Haiti's National Palace, the crumbling of the one thing that seemed stable while the rulers inside changed places 10 times in the past 25 years.

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Now that single, white-domed structure is not just cracked, it’s collapsed on itself, split in pieces, splintered and fractured like clay that’s been baked and left to dry in the sun too long.

The first time I saw the palace, 1986, I was amazed. There was a lot of traffic, foot traffic with people selling batteries, sunglasses, and gum, and music blaring and cars honking and there it was, white and solid and clean.

At 8:00 a.m. when they raise the flag and play the national anthem, everyone in the square – absolutely everyone – stops still in their tracks and waits for the flag to reach the top. They stop because raising the blue-and-red flag with the white square in the middle is the symbol of their independence, of being the first black republic in the Western hemisphere – one of the only country's to defeat Napoleon’s army. A people that could bring down Napoleon but could do nothing against the force of mother nature."

---- For stories, blogs, and updates on Haiti after the earthquake, go to the Monitor's Haiti topic page.