My friend MB got a call Saturday night from one of her law school professors, whose about-to-be-adopted children were stranded in an orphanage in Haiti. (The paperwork was finalized, all that remained was the trip home to America.)
They were out of food and water, and some of the children's caretakers were killed in the quake. Apparently people had broken into their compound and taken their supplies, the situation was dire and the adoptees' mother was frantic. MB was trying to help. "I knew you'd have some ideas," she said.
First I forwarded the information about the orphanage to a state department official via Twitter. Then I thought about other options. "If that was me," I told MB, "I'd be contacting all my local TV stations to get them to do a story, hoping the national media picked it up."
"Good idea," she said, and got off the phone to call her professor.
After a Sunday afternoon conference call with U.S. officials working in Haiti, I called to tell her the U.S. State Department was aware of the 500 orphans who were in the process of adoption, they'd already evacuated 150 to the United States and five more were leaving Sunday afternoon. She said she'd pass the information along.
Yesterday morning, on my way to the dentist, I called MB to see whether she had any news. She'd called a friend who called a friend and yes, a Fox News crew went out to the orphanage and they got some food and water delivered to the orphans. Yay, Fox News! (You probably won't hear me say that again anytime soon.)
"But we still have to save the internet," she said, worriedly.
"MB, what are you talking about?" (She's a classic Cancer and just isn't happy unless she's worried about someone.)
Well, MB's husband Eric (one of the founders of the blogging Koufax awards) works for CORE, and used to work for ICANN, the international internet body. Seems that there are three people in Haiti capable of running the country's internet NOC (network operations center), and two of them died in the quake. The one remaining operator, Reynold Guerrier, told Eric the center was using a generator - and running out of fuel. Thugs were trying to break into the facility to steal what they could, but the NOC operator held them off. He was very worried about his wife and children, but told Eric he'd stay if someone would get his family out of the country.
MB was frantic. "I've called everyone I can think of, but everyone's closed for the holiday," she said. "I'm contacting people to try to get a number, just any kind of back-door contact. I wrote Joe Trippi to see if he can help."
"I'd try congressional staffers," I said. "What about Stoller? He works for Alan Grayson."
"I used to have his number. Who would have his new number? Would Natasha?"
"Yeah, either her or Chris," I said.
"Okay, I'll call her," she said.
When I came home from my lawyer's appointment, I called her again. She'd spoken to Darcy Burner, who told her either Sen. Patty Murray or Sen. Maria Cantwell would call her in 15 minutes. And Natasha had passed all the info onto Matt Stoller.
And somebody, somewhere had gotten through to someone and the State Department had at least delivered some fuel to keep the internet hub running. (Yay, again.)
"I thought the internet was set up so that if one part went down, another part patched in," I said, a little whiny. (I only got four hours' sleep the night before and after spending the morning in the dentist's chair, I was just plain cranky.)
MB explained that if the router wasn't up and running, there was nothing to patch into. "And a lot of utilities, like the electrical system, run off the internet," she said. "So they won't be able to get back up without it." Oh.
So anyway, a bunch of dedicated people have been working very, very hard (not me - I didn't work that hard at all, I'm an idea person) to save orphans and the Haitian internet, and they all deserve a round of applause. Nice work, people! Smoochies to MB and everyone who helped her save the world.