WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — WPTV is taking a look back at the devastating 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti 13 years ago, which claimed thousands of lives.
Anchor Jay Cashmere joined Missionary Flights International (MFI), based in Fort Pierce, and was on board one of the first humanitarian flights that landed within hours of the earthquake.
He left South Florida not knowing the horror they were about to witness when we landed.
Cashmere said this was an assignment that was unlike anything he had previously reported on.
Three crew members, a dozen missionaries and Cashmere were en route to a place that needed extraordinary help.
"Time is of the essence," one crew member said at the time. "I imagine there is very little infrastructure in Haiti at all."
WPTV was among the first wave of humanitarian flights carrying 5,000 pounds of water purification kits.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, was rocked to the core. The death toll was rising, and fear was rampant.
"When I looked behind me, I saw the wall fall down," one Haitian resident said after the quake. "The house tried to get all of me. ... It was terrible."
Plane after plane from the Coast Guard, National Guard and armed guards landed at the airport, bringing hope in a desperate race against time.
"We went from three to five flights a week, which was a normal routine at MFI, to seven flights a day," Dick Snook with Missionary Flights International said.
He flew with Missionary Flights for 36 years and continues to serve on their board. Snook said he will never forget.
"MFI set up a triage inside the fence where the doctors and nurses we took in could their job," Snook said. "All the flying I've done at MFI that was pretty dramatic."
United Nations convoys hit the streets in front of an eerie backdrop, Cashmere recalled. Mountains had collapsed from the quake and its aftershock. The amount of help arriving at the airport was incomprehensible.
Residents were walking amid a country in rubble, searching, praying and hoping.
What took seconds to destroy would take a decade to rebuild. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is still haunted by the pain and suffering they endured 13 years ago.