Haiti On My Mind
The simplicity and power of those famous words from his legendary speech -- "I have a dream" -- feel so resonant at this particular moment.
It's hard to watch the compelling and heart-wrenching images from Haiti, coming as we do from our particular professional perspective, without thinking about search in radically different terms. In the first hours and days following those few seconds of intense shaking, people almost immediately began searching for loved ones.
When voices from beneath the rubble and dust began calling out, nearby family members and random passersby alike began searching, using nothing more than their bare hands and brute strength to dig through concrete and rubble. To the extent victims were able to grab a stray cellular signal, text messages were sent from beneath fallen buildings begging someone to come searching for them.
As more organized efforts emerged, broadcast networks and then Google collaborated with the U.S. State Department to unite those searching for someone with information about missing loved ones. Google's Crisis Response Team sprang into action, calling on Google Earth, Google Voice, Google Map Maker and YouTube to bring real-time data and information together with those desperately seeking answers.
Google Earth, for me, provided some of the starkest evidence yet of just what had occurred. The before and after images of Port-au-Prince and its key infrastructure are shocking. I understand these images are proving invaluable to first responders and aid workers as they seek to navigate the most efficient byways to deliver urgently needed food, water and medical assistance.
Perhaps most compelling, however, is Google's People Finder, made up of two boxes, one of which says "I'm looking for someone" and the other "I have information about someone." Google offers this background and guidance for its use: "You'll find this gadget on our Haiti earthquake response website as well as on the State Department website. In order to prevent the proliferation of multiple missing persons databases (a big problem during Hurricane Katrina), we've made the People Finder gadget standards-based and easily embeddable on any website (see here for instructions). The gadget is currently available in English, French and Creole."
Search has proven immensely useful in commercial, academic and personal realms. It makes sense that search would also be useful within such startling contexts. Still, it's shocking when, out of the blue, search suddenly becomes so necessary.
There will be many long and difficult days ahead for the people of Haiti and those gathered there in support of them. There are bound to be continuing searches -- for solutions, for answers, for meaning -- and, sadly, for those finally lost.
Remembering Dr. King's peaceful, persistent, graceful and focused leadership to help end the tragic legacy of slavery in our own country provides some hope, I think, that out of great hardship and extraordinary suffering something better, more enduring and essentially human can be forged.
To contribute to Haiti relief efforts and the rebuilding of the country, go to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund and give as generously as you're able.