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Haiti crisis hits home

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Two-days after the massive 7.1 earthquake rocked Haiti, the destruction and devastation of the event touched home, when one Whiteman Airman received troubling news.

Airman 1st Class Jennifer Nuñez, 509th Comptroller Squadron document control technician cashier, was fifteen minutes from her final out-processing appointment to deploy, when she learned her uncle, Max, was in La Boule, Haiti, for the holidays when the devastating earthquake struck.

"My family and I didn't know if he was alive or not," Airman Nuñez said. "When I found out the news, I began to worry. I was terrified and immediately began to pray. I wondered if I would ever get to see him again."

Fortunately, much awaited news arrived on the third day when her uncle called to relieve her family's worries.

"After the earthquake struck, no one could make phone contact with anyone for about three days which is why it took what felt like years to find out if he was okay," Airman Nuñez said.

According to Airman Nuñez, he is uninjured, miraculously.

"Praying works," she said.

Max Hogarth, her uncle, gave her a first-hand account of Haiti's condition and informed her, help was needed.

"People were trying to get out of damaged areas of Haiti and into safer areas because the stench of the bodies under the debris was overwhelming," Mr. Hogarth said." Everyone was sleeping outside because they didn't want their houses to crumble on them."

In midst of the crisis, Airman Nuñez felt she had to do something and took it upon herself to help raise awareness at Whiteman. She went to Master Sgt. William Sander, flight chief for financial services, for guidance.

"I thought it was a great idea," said Sergeant Sander. "Together, we started spreading the word about efforts to help, taking donations to send to Haiti."

Meanwhile, Airman Nuñez explained to her uncle how Whiteman planned to help Haiti.

"My uncle informed me about his ties with the United States Embassy and the Haitian Embassy, Washington," Airman Nuñez said. "He said he can get all of Whiteman's donations directly to the embassy in Haiti. We just have to tell him exactly what we have, and he'll let them know so we can get them into Haiti."

According to Airman Nuñez, her uncle safely returned back to Maryland Jan. 20.

"He was very disturbed by the things he witnessed in Haiti," Airman Nuñez said. "A natural disaster can happen anywhere and a tragedy like this could happen to anyone's relative. What could have been a reality was thankfully not."

Contributions can be brought to Building 509, Suite 115A, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., in the finance office. Encouraged items include non-perishable food and clothes. To learn more contact Sergeant Sander or Airman Nuñez at (660) 687-5378.

The Airman & Family Readiness Center is handling monetary donations. To find out more contact (660) 687-7132.