940th reservists with Haitian ties volunteer
By Dana Lineback, 940th Wing
/ Published January 22, 2010
BEALE AFB, Calif. -- As soon as the call came out for volunteers to participate in Haitian earthquake relief efforts, 940th Wing Reservists stepped forward. One of the first to volunteer was Tech. Sgt. Francois Celestin, a Services Flight member whose family lives in the heart of the devastated city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
"It's a very helpless feeling knowing what had happened, but not being able to do anything," said Sergeant Celestin, who was born in Haiti. "I immediately wanted to go over there to do whatever I could to help."
While searching for some way to be part of the growing relief effort, Sergeant Celestin said he tried for days to reach his relatives. Finally, on Saturday, five days after the earthquake struck, Sergeant Celestin received a call from his mother.
"She told me that everyone was okay, except for one cousin who had died in the rubble of the building where he worked," Sergeant Celestin said.
His mother told him that most families were either living in the streets or in their cars because they were afraid to re-enter their homes. She told her son that their home had suffered minor cracks and flooding from broken pipes. However, beyond the front gates of their yard, the scene was one of total devastation, she said.
According to Sergeant Celestin, his mother described a precarious food and water supply, saying they were putting bleach in the drinking water and neighbors were sharing what food they had. But, she admitted supplies were beginning to run low.
Sergeant Celestin said, at the time of her call, his mother hadn't yet ventured out of the immediate neighborhood where the family lives. He was concerned because his mother had said she didn't know where to go to get more food.
"My mom is the one all the neighbors look to for support," Sergeant Celestin said. "I asked her if she wanted to come to the States now, but she said she wouldn't leave them (her neighbors)."
Sergeant Celestin said he was confident his family would pull through this situation. He said it wasn't the first time they had faced devastation. "My parents were living in New York City when 9/11 happened. My dad was stuck at work for three days then."
Although Sergeant Celestin was relieved to know that his family was alive and well, he said he'd really hoped to go to Haiti so that he could be there to help them through their current crisis. Earlier this week, Sergeant Celestin learned that he and six other Services Flight volunteers had been tapped to backfill positions at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, in support of the Haitian humanitarian relief efforts.
"I'm glad to be part of this mission," Sergeant Celestin said, "If I can't go to Haiti, this is a good way for me to do something to help my family and others there."