“I’m going to Haiti,” I say out loud into the silence that is my 117-year-old Kentucky home this early morning.
I envision the words settling over me like they do in “Text Rain,” my favorite work of art at Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel. The almost fantastical video installation projects your image onto a wall as letters rain down on your reflection and nestle into words on your outstretched limbs and the top of your head, melding – for a moment – flesh and language into one.
The connection I make to “Text Rain” and my impending trip quickly becomes clear: Both are impossible to imagine without experiencing. The former I have, and I find myself sometimes dreaming about being caught in rainstorms of words that cascade and envelop; other times they pelt and penetrate, harsh, cold, painful. I can’t help but to wonder how experiencing Haiti will inhabit the sparse hours I tend to sleep these days.
Later, I log on to Facebook and upload a picture of the Delta e-ticket that will take me on the first leg of my trip, from Louisville to Florida, in less than three weeks. In the caption I post: “Had to sit down for a moment when I received tangible proof I’m heading to Haiti in less than a month.” In less than five hours, I receive nearly 100 responses via e-mail, text, Twitter, Facebook and my cell phone. I am humbled, overwhelmed, inspired.
When I arrive in Florida on Feb. 2, I’ll meet Capt. Steve Koch, a Louisville resident and volunteer with Agape Flights, an aviation ministry that has continuously delivered supplies and missionaries to the Caribbean country since it was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010.
Capt. Koch will fly me to Haiti on an Embraer 110 configured for freight. I’ll sit in one of two jump seats, cognizant that the weight of my being and belongings will replace the equivalent amount of supplies. This troubles me until I am assured the only heft I need worry about is the weight of responsibility in going, seeing, listening, feeling and then reporting on all that I encounter. That evening I do 30 minutes extra on the elliptical and add so many weightlifting exercises to my usual routine that turning on the faucet and running my toothbrush under the water – clean, clear water – makes me ache.
The following evening, I go to the grocery store and bump into a former acquaintance in the meat department. “You’re going to Haiti?” he scoffs.
I stare at him for a moment, trying not to bristle. He is, of course, alluding to my role in the local media. I write fluffy features and wax poetic about what it means to be best dressed. I interview celebrities on red carpets and do radio spots about the hottest happenings. I dish about Hollywood on TV and emcee charity events and society soirees.
The last time he saw me, I was interviewing Bo Derek at Churchill Downs during the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Fashion $5K, a style contest hosted by The Voice-Tribune that attracted contestants from around the globe. The time before that, I was emceeing a charity gala, dressed in a borrowed designer gown worth more than my monthly mortgage. Before that, we’d exchanged glances at Churchill Downs on Derby Day seconds before I talked on-camera to Terrell Owens during a fun, fast-paced interview I’d happily spent several hours preparing for, knowing it’d last mere moments.
“Seriously,” says my acquaintance as we stand under the fluorescent lights, which suddenly seem too bright and garish. “Why are you going to Haiti?” He spits out the word “you” as if it’s left a bad taste in his mouth.
My life, to this former friend, is merely a party, the world a dance floor I enter and exit at my whim. To an outside observer who hasn’t looked deeper, I know far too well what I do for a living can easily appear to be nothing more than an easy street of events and superficiality. But it’s so much more. I am so much more, even though I sometimes forget that and have to tell myself out loud just so I’ll believe it all over again.
For a moment, I envision giving him a breathless rundown of my resumÃ©, including every academic, professional and charitable highlight I can summon. I imagine ending my defensive diatribe with a witty, biting comment aimed at this man I’m none too thrilled to have encountered. But I don’t.
Instead, I force a laugh and poke fun at myself. “I know, right?” I say. He doesn’t soften. Flustered, I pick up a package of flatiron steak, pretending to consider the price, willing my hands to stop shaking.
In December, when Capt. Steve Koch asked if I wanted to accompany him and Agape Flights, I said yes immediately. I didn’t think about the potential dangers or the process it’d take for the trip to come to fruition. I didn’t spend a moment wondering how my mom will feel or who will take care of my three dogs. I simply said yes – and then asked my boss, Tracy Blue, managing director of The Voice-Tribune, for permission. She looked at me for a brief moment and then said the same thing: “Yes, of course.”
I don’t always succeed, but I try to live life doing what I can because I can instead of trying to figure out reasons why I shouldn’t. In this instance, that means I’m going to Haiti. I can and so I am. It’s that simple, really.
In the grocery store, I look at my old acquaintance, shrug my shoulders and offer the only answer I have: “I’m going to Haiti,” I say, giving him a slight smile before I turn toward the check-out, repeating the words to myself as I walk away.
Contact Angie at (502) 551-2698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: The Dish
About the Author (Author Profile)
Angie Fenton is Managing Editor of The Voice-Tribune, a Blue Equity company. She is also an entertainment correspondent for WHAS11′s new morning show, “Great Day Live!”, which debuted August 22 on Louisville’s ABC affiliate. Additionally, Angie is an entertainment correspondent for the Saturday Morning Show with Ron ‘n’ Mel Fisher on 84WHAS (840 AM) and has served in the same capacity for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks; Breeders’ Cup; and Circuit of the Americas during the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in November 2012. Angie also serves as an emcee, host, voiceover professional and on-camera commercial talent.
Angie has a bachelor’s and master’s in English from Central Michigan University and began her career as an adjunct professor at her alma mater. She is the youngest of five — four of whom were adopted, including Angie, and none of whom are biologically related. She is also a Michigan native who moved to Kentucky in June 2002. Angie is owned by two dogs — Herbie and Yoda — and feels lucky to have loved and been loved by many more, including Pooch, Jessie, Onyx, Jack and Big Bud, who took his last breath on Christmas Day 2012.