Flag Day Inspiration

Posted on June 15, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Thursday, June 14, was Flag Day.  I was privileged to attend the celebration of two people who became permanent U.S. residents, a mother and daughter from Haiti.  I know B, the daughter, through Girls on the Run.  I have seen her run. I have seen her cross the finish line in two races.  For a long time, however, B could not run.

B came to America about 2½ years ago at the age of 9 after the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti to its core.  She came alone, on a stretcher, to a country she did not know and one whose language she did not speak.

B and her mother, R, were close, and R did everything she could to give B a great life in Haiti.  They both valued education. To this end, R ensured that B had the best teachers in Haiti, even though that meant that B’s school was too far away for her to walk to.  However, if it had been close enough for most children to walk to, B could not have made it there.  She had an illness that often left her debilitated and prevented her from walking.

R did everything she could to find treatment for B.  They went to many doctors in Haiti, but the doctors could find no cure.  They went to traditional healers, but B could not be healed.  So they prayed, but B did not get better.  They were baffled and frustrated as B continued to suffer.

When the earthquake struck, B was at her school, studying.  The building collapsed, killing many, including B’s friends and teacher, and leaving B’s leg pinned under debris.  Trapped for hours, she lay under the rubble and called for help.

In the middle of the earthquake, R’s thoughts were of her daughter.  With tremors still shaking the island, R made her way to her daughter’s school, only to find it destroyed.  Trusting that B was still alive, R dug in the rubble with her bare hands.  B continued to call out for help until her mother found her.  Soon, B’s uncle, and then the entire village, was there to uncover B.

When they dug her out, B’s leg was completely crushed by the weight of the building. Although she spent time in the hospital, a terrible infection set in.  Doctors prepared to amputate B’s leg.

But what B didn’t know was what was happening over 1000 miles away. Her soon-to-be foster family—3 young girls and their parents—watched the crisis in Haiti unfold.  Moved by the devastation, one of the girls spoke up first and asked if they could adopt one of the many injured children.

That was the first step in what would take a web of strangers—doctors, charities, and private citizens—to bring B to San Antonio.  R was strong enough to choose hope for her daughter, and sent her off alone. B was courageous enough to leave.  It would be an entire year before B could be joined by her mother.

Through the efforts of remarkable doctors, B’s leg was saved.  She underwent a series of painful surgeries, without whining, without complaint.  What’s more, her doctors diagnosed the disease that had limited B throughout her life.  Fortunately, it’s one that can be successfully managed.

Finally, B is pain-free.

Almost two years after B arrived, I had the privilege of seeing her run.  At the time, I didn’t know it was a privilege.  At the time, I didn’t know her courage and her strength.  I only saw a girl running.

I don’t think B knows that her bravery has fingers long enough to touch virtual strangers.

At the celebration, I chatted with a friend of the family.  She said that when she told B what an inspiration she was, B said, “What’s an inspiration?”  On Flag Day, in the Federal Building, surrounded by the web of people whose faith and love and hope crystallized into action, there were too many inspirations in the room to count.


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What an incredible family! What a wonderful story!


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